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Aquarium Startup Equipment

PostPosted: Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:38 am
by Crazygar
Aquarium Startup Equipment

Thinking of starting up a new freshwater aquarium? What a wonderful idea for you and your family! Let us here as the staff of Tropical Resources and Progeny give you a helping hand. Please allow us to suggest and provide you with a with this simple listing to help you in assembling the basic needed equipment, components and information to successfully startup that freshwater, tropical fish aquarium for your home or office. Understanding and becoming aware of some of the basic key information provided, will save you many hours of heart-felt stress, as you watch your tropical fish swim happily by, instead of scrambling down to the local fish store (LFS) or searching the online emergency web forums for help. As you progress with your plan, please consider fishless cycling as a humane alternative to the old outdated standard of cycling with fish. Plan the tank and the fish prior to the purchase. Remember to include safety in your plans as well, water and electric just do not mix, a quick reminder and common sense will do well for most of you. Are you ready? Here are the basic needs and some thought to help guide you on your way —

    Aquarium — Here the larger the tank the better, with ten gallons being the absolute minimum for tropical fish and fifty-five gallons being the upper side of most first startup tanks. The twenty long or twenty-nine gallons tanks are both excellent startup aquariums. Surface area and water volume are some of the keys to healthy fish, and large tanks are also just more temperature stable and stress free, the extra size and gallons helping to dampen the temperature fluctuations. Aquarium stocking rates and compatible tankmates as always topics of great discussion, please make sure you understand these before you 'over fill' the tank with your new charges.

    Aquarium Stand — Water weighs in at about 8.33 pounds per gallon and so it is important to use a aquarium stand that was designed for your tank. A nice twenty-nine gallon tank will weigh in at about 275 pounds with a normal gravel substrate depth. Tables and other such home furniture items will often collapse under the prolonged weight. Please consider a proper stand for your aquarium(s). Many of these aquaruim stands also provide a nice place to so store your food, air pump, supplies and maintenance equipment as well.

    Hood or Glass Cover and Lighting — You need to plan on keeping the kids or pets out of the aquaruim, as well as trying to keeping the fish in, so a tight fitting hood or glass cover is a must. Your choices here are the traditional plastic hood with included light, or a glass cover with a fluorescent light fixture(s) containing one or two tubes. These fluorescent tube fixtures allow you to change the tubes for one or more that aid in the growth of plants should you choose to enter into this part of the hobby as well, now or in the future. The fluorescent tube type will run much cooler and will not burn the family members, as well as being more economical to operate over time. Fish need periods of light and dark, day and night, to be healthy, feed and live a normal life. Small changes here in lighting and such can aid in breeding and young fry, if this is of interest to you, or might be at some point in the future. The addition of timers can help to keep consistent periods of light and and dark, can even help you control algae should that become a problem. Always keep your tank(s) out of direct sunlight to help avoid algae.

    Filter(s) — Here you have many choices to select from, Hang on Tank (HOT), Hang on Back (HOB), Canisters, Under Gravel Filters, (UGF) and Wet/Dry filters are among the most popular types. You should select a filter or filters that are capable of providing the three main needs, mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. Don't let all this confuse you, it is simple and easy, the members and staff in the TR forums can help you decide which types are best suited for your needs. A thought to the future should always be made in the consideration of any purchase, many of our members end up with several aquariums, this is called multiple tank syndrome (MTS), and these items can be used elsewhere as you upgrade to others. Buying hardware or equipment that is future compatible will help to prevent you from owning a closet full of unused items. There is a page of acronyms for your use, to help understand some of the terms, if you wish.

    Substrate or Gravel — A item of more importance than one might think, your substrate provides a place for your live tropical plants to root, an anchor for you plastic plants and a natural life like look for you and your fish. Often overlooked, the gravel can provide a wonderful place to grow and culture the bacteria that forms a major portion of your biological filtration system. This is the bacteria that we formed and or grew with our fishless cycling. Regardless of the cycling method used, please ensure that one of them has been completed prior to the addition of you fish. Ammonia poisoning and its effects are a terrible sentence for both the unsuspecting fish and fish keeper. Remember to clean or vacuum the substrate or gravel with each weekly water change you do.

    Decorations or Plastic Plants — It matters not if you are using a plastic diver with a treasure chest whose lid opens wide when the bubbles build up and pop out, or a Greek temple, the choice in decorations is yours to make. Pink gravel or blue, or a mix the two, this is one of the more enjoyable parts of the aquarium setup. Make a statement or go natural, with the smaller gravel in the lighter shades, the choice is yours alone to make. Plastic plants make a great addition to many aquariums and where some fish like to eat the live plants, this is the only way to make these tanks look nice. The surface area of the plants also adds to the gravel and other such places in your tank to help host the biological colony, so treat these with care and only rinse them off in used tank water. Chlorine and Chloramines from the household tap will damage or destroy any live biological bacteria on these surfaces. A good tip for filter cleaning and maintenance as well, rinse these items in a bucket of used tank water during your substrate cleanings; keep them away from the tap water.

    Heater(s) — We keep tropical fish and as such they require tropical temperature, 76 degrees F or 25 C is a good starting place for most of the fish we keep. All fish have a preference range and you should select those that can live together within this requirement. To place a species that prefers 80 degrees F in a tank of cool water schoolers at 72 degrees F, will do nothing but stress and harm one group or the other. The heaters we use are usually rated in watts and generaly are available in the 50 to 300 watt range. If you live in the north or colder places , five watts per gallon is a good place to start. If you live in the warmer parts of the country you might consider less, but not need to. On larger tanks, often the owner will split the heater chores between two smaller heaters of equal or slightly greater wattage, one in each corner of the aquarium. The staff of TR will be glad to help you here if you like. A slow gradual temperature shift of a few degrees is normal and not cause for alarm. Quick changes are stressful and these should be avoided in all of the things one does with the aquarium.

    Thermometer — A good quality thermometer is a very important tool as a part of our startup kit. Many heaters have a set temperature mark or reference, but this is only an approximate. You should check the temperature everyday, both night and morning and or with each feeding. A drop in temperature here could be a malfunctioning heater, or perhaps you forget to plug it back in after the last water change or tank cleaning. Regardless it needs to be accurate and checked everyday. Stress is perhaps the number one cause of disease in the home aquarium. Stress weakens the immune system and makes your aquatic charges subject to Ich, and a vaired host of other such diseases you want to only read about, not endure. Prevention via stable water parameters, is the kindest thing you can do for your new tropical fish. Wild temperature swings and or water quality shifts, be it pH changes or even the addition of salt with out the proper need, can upset the balance in your tank, please try to keep a clean stable, stress free system.

    Test kit(s) — The presence of Ammonia, NitrIte, and NirtAte and the pH of your water are all very important information you will need to have. The test kits allow you to know, watch and correct the often-harmful effects of some of these componds. Regardless of tank size, you need to know the water parameters, this is needed for help on the online forums, as well. You will be requested to provide this information, just as well have the test kits and know how to use them. Your local fish store (LFS) will or can also provide this for you, often for free, sometimes with a small charge, until you are able to find a master kit for your needs. Please do not neglect this portion of the hobby, it is easy and fun, soon you will be a pro and offering help to others, as was once offered to you. Passing the torch from one to another as we so often say at TR.

    Maintenance Equipment — You will find the maintenance to be easier to perform and more likely to be done, if you have the proper equipment. A couple of clean five gallon buckets that are not used for any other purpose (a soap film will kill fish) and a siphon hose coupled with a gravel vacuum will get you off to a great start. A Python, no-spill clean and fill water change system will be of great help for many of you. Regardless, please make sure to do your weekly water changes of 20% to 50% of the water volume. Other items of needed equipment are fishnets, algae scrapers and or pads to clean the inside of the front pane of glass. Leave as many of the other glass sides as you can for the fish to nibble on your plecos to graze and for biological growth for our biological filter colony to expand on. This bacteria will grow on any surface in the aquarium system that has a constant supply of oxygen, ammonia and or nitrIte, up to the amount of the food source available in the system.

    Food(s) — Try to establish a varied and balanced diet for the type of fish you have chosen to keep. Supplies such as this are often purchased at your Local Fish Store (LFS). Tropical fish enjoy a wide range of food, from some live (chopped earth worms and etc.), to both dried, freeze dried, and flash frozen. There are many pellets and sinking wafers for you to choose from as well. Consult with your local fish store and livestock dealer or ask online at the TR forums, for suggestions and or other feeding tips. Bright colors and fry are good indicators that the proper foods are being offered. A quick tip, please do not over feed, this just adds to the biological load and fouls up the substrate, requiring frequent cleanings and water changes to just keep up the nominal maintenance.

    Water Conditioners — All water placed in your aquarium should be free of both Chlorine and Chloramine, with out exception. There are many types of chemicals available at the local fish store that will remove these for you. Ask your dealer of the staff of TR for help with a brand for your water and area of the country. A good dechlorinator is a must, untreated water can burn the gills of your tropical fish and result in their painful death.

    Books — A written reference source can be of great value to the new fish keeper. One may want to procure a copy prior to the purchasing the aquarium. Having it as an onsite reference can be of great comfort and the detail provided is hard to reproduce elsewhere. Maintenance schedules and water change topics are among the most helpful, along with basic tropical fish guides.

    Online Web Forum — This is where Tropical Fish Hobbyist Online Forum comes into play. A helpful and friendly staff, a source of help, encouragement and information. Assistance from people who just did what you are starting, as well as a full staff of experienced fish keepers. The administrators and moderators of TFH Forum & Progeny invite you to join in the discussions and post your questions, help out with answers when you can as well. New members are always welcome.

The list ended up being a little bit longer than I had at first planned, but the information is needed and as such this is a convenient place to share it. We wish you the best with your new aquarium and offer to help in anyway we can!