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Using Tetracycline in Freshwater Aquariums

The tetracycline group, of which Chlortetracycline was the first member, are broad-spectrum antibiotics derived from a soil bacterium discovered in the late 1940s. There are four naturally occurring tetracyclines as well as a half dozen semi-synthetic versions. In 2005 a new subgroup of tetracyclines named glycylcyclines. These new antimicrobials are being used to treat drug-resistant infections that do not respond to standard tetracyclines.

Naturally occurring: chlortetracycline, demeclocyline, oxytetracyline, tetracycline
Semi-synthetic: doxycycline, lymecycline, meclocycline, methacycline, minocycline, rolitetracycline

Use in Aquariums
In ornamental fish, Tetracycline is used to treat a variety of external and internal bacterial infections, including these disorders:

Hemorrhagic Septicemia: Bacterial infection of the bloodstream. Characterized by bloody streaks on the body and fins
Cottonmouth disease: Bacterial infection that affects the mouth with fungus-like growth and erosion of the mouthparts
Fin Rot: Fins and tail become ragged and frayed, in some cases almost completely eroding
Gill Disease: Fish breathe heavily and gills appear bright red
Open Body Sores: Bacterial infection causing open red sores on the body
Body Slime: Slimy patches appear on the body, fish flashes against objects and breath rapidly
Pop-eye: Eyes are hazy and may protrude from head
Cyanobacteria: Also used to treat cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)

Generally, tetracycline is more effective against aerobic bacteria, particularly gram-positive organisms. In infections caused by gram-negative bacteria, minocycline is more effective than tetracycline. Tetracycline becomes more potent as it ages, so expiration dates should be carefully adhered to.

Tetracycline will kill nitrifying bacteria, so avoid using it along with other antibiotics to reduce the impact these drugs have on the biologicals. Monitor water chemistry closely for several weeks following treatment with this antibiotic, testing for ammonia and nitrite. Avoid the use of this drug if fish are already suffering from ammonia or nitrite poisoning, or diseases that have already rendered the fish significantly anemic.

High general hardness (GH) will reduce the effectiveness of this drug. Tetracycline it is not effective at all when the water pH is higher than 7.5. Remove any carbon filter media when using this drug, as it will remove the Tetracycline from the water. Tetracyclines can be safely used together with Methylene Blue.

Minocycline is a broader spectrum antibiotic than the other tetracyclines, particularly in treating infections caused by gram-negative bacteria. Of the tetracycline family, it is most effective against septicemia.

Popular Products and Usage Instructions
API T.C. Tetracycline
For best results, remove activated carbon or filter cartridge from filter and continue aeration. For each 10 gallons of water, empty one packet directly into aquarium. Repeat dose after 24 hours. Wait another 24 hours and then change 25 percent of the aquarium water. Repeat this treatment for a second time, for a total of 4 doses. Then make a final 25 percent water change and add fresh activated carbon or replace filter cartridge. Treatment may be repeated if necessary. One package treats up to 100 gallons. Four doses required for full course of treatment.

Fish Cycline
Add one packet (250 mg) for each 15 gallons of water to be treated. Repeat in 24 hours. A partial water change is suggested between treatments. While the duration of treatment depends on type and severity of infection, extended medication baths should continue for a minimum of 5 days and for not more than 10 days. Discontinue treatment if no improvement is noted within 5 days. To remove harmless yellow color, change 20% of water and use a charcoal filter until water is clear.

Maracyn–Two (Minocycline)
First day, add 2 packets per 10 gallons of water. On the second through fifth day, add 1 packet per 10 gallons of water. Repeat this 5-day treatment only once if needed

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What causes cloudy aquarium water?

The 3 common types of cloudy aquarium water are free-floating substrate particles, green water caused by algae, and white cloudiness which indicate a bacterial bloom.
If you just started your aquarium and experience grayish discoloration of the water, don’t panic. The gravel was probably still dirty, therefore free-floating particlesare clouding the tank. The particles will settle and also get picked up by the aquarium’s filter, allowing the water to clear up in a day or two.

Furthermore, a light haze after siphoning the gravel is harmless, and is likely caused by the minor disturbance of the substrate. This usually clears up within 24 hours.

A yellow discoloration or brown tint is typically attributed to high levels of dissolved organic matter. This can cause the pH to drop significantly, posing harm to the health of your aquarium fish.

Green Aquarium Water
Free-floating algae bloom
An algae bloom occurs, when free-floating planktonic single-celled algae, multiply at a rate that turns the water green.

Algae can reproduce at a rate at which visibility is strongly affected, hence it is often referred to as pea soup. An algae bloom can become so severe, causing your fish to disappear in a muck of green water.

The cause of green aquarium water is always the same — too much light & poor water quality.

Sources of excess light can include the aquarium light, intense room lighting, as well as direct sunlight.

Water changes provide little help in clearing the water. Algae spores are readily available in the water, including most waters sources used for changes.

Turning off the lights will not eliminate the problem, therefore this is an ineffective solution as the problem persists.

Algae consumes oxygen at night during photosynthesis. A severe algae bloom can deplete the tank of oxygen, therefore adequate oxygenation during the lights-off period is vital.

Decaying organic matter creates phosphate. Rinsing the filter more frequently during an algae bloom, will help eliminate some of this decaying matter. The gravel should also be regularly siphoned in order to remove settled organic waste.

White Cloudy Aquarium Water
A bacterial bloom
White cloudy aquarium water is the result of a bacteria bloom.

Cleaning the filters all at once, or changing the gravel can trigger a bacteria bloom. Both remove beneficial bacteria colonies, which have settled on the filter media or substrate.

Other potential causes include treatment of the aquarium with antibiotics, which may destroy these colonies, or the completion of the initial break-in of the aquarium (establishment of the nitrogen cycle).

The initial loss of beneficial bacteria results in nutrient rich water, which presents re-establishing bacteria with a high food environment. This over-abundance of food leads to explosive bacterial growth, which can be observed by the development of hazy white aquarium water.

Why should you be concerned about a bacteria bloom?
Bacteria need oxygen. A few grams of bacteria consume about the same amount as an adult human. A prolonged bacteria bloom may significantly decrease oxygen in the water, threatening healthy aquatic life. Immediate action is required if the problem is severe and/or persists.

We also recommend checking ammonia levels when a bacteria bloom occurs, as ammonia may rise to dangerous levels.

In a salt-water aquarium, a protein skimmer usually helps prevent bacteria blooms by removing free-floating bacteria from the aquarium water.

When a bacteria bloom is detected in a saltwater tank, check to make sure the skimmer is dialed in to run efficiently.

A severe bloom can create an oily film and enough foam-depressing agents to make a skimmer go flat (no foam, no function). This condition should be viewed as a potentially serious threat to the health of the aquarium. In addition to oxygen depletion, toxicity of ammonia increases at higher pH levels, typically found in salt-water environments.

It is therefore vital to adjust the skimmer to assure it is running efficiently. An oxidation agent such as potassium permanganate can be used. Diluted and used sparingly (1% added in the low ml region), will oxidize enough fat so it can be picked up by the skimmer, thus jump-starting the system.

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The Aquarium Water Change

Regular aquarium water changes are the most important part of maintaining an aquarium. Because it’s such a simple task, the ‘dos & don’ts’ are often overlooked.
It’s routine, it’s mundane, it doesn’t always fit into our schedule. Yes, we are talking about the aquarium water change.

What do you need for the task? For all practical purposes, a simple bucket or pot will do the trick. Scoop out some water, pour fresh water back in …after using a conditioner of course… Bingo, you did a water change.

Ok, so maybe that’s not our best option for changing water. Let’s take a look at some of the variables, so we can get the most bang for time spent.

Getting the Most Out of the Aquarium Water Change
Maximizing the benefits of the water change
Organic waste accumulates and dissolves in the aquarium, as a result nitrate is constantly created. Because nitrate is the final nutrient in the nitrogen cycle, our best option is to physically remove it through regular water changes.

Because the aquarium is a closed-loop ecosystem, accumulating waste and nutrients must be regularly removed through water changes.
To maximize the benefits of your water changes, always use a siphon to ‘vacuum’ the gravel while extracting water. Removing waste settled at the bottom of the tank is extremely beneficial for maintaining a healthy and balanced aquarium.

Regularly scheduled aquarium water changes include these benefits:

Removes accumulating nitrates
Waste particles settling at the bottom of the aquarium can easily be removed with a siphon
Removes toxins and chemical pollutants
Improves water clarity and removes odors
Adding fresh water back into the aquarium increases available oxygen
Replenishes depleted minerals and trace elements
Recommended Aquarium Water Change Schedule
The benefits of regular water changes
Our recommendation for general aquarium maintenance purposes:

Weekly water changes of about 10% of the tank volume.
Optionally, 15 – 20% every other week, works in most aquariums as well.
Using these weekly and bi-weekly guidelines, the schedule can be tweaked to suit each unique aquarium setup. In some cases less frequent water changes will work, while heavily stocked aquariums likely require more frequent changes.

Some trial and error is required to determine the most effective water change schedule for your own aquarium.

Additional maintenance tasks at the time of water changes
Inspect of the filter and filter media. If the filter is dirty, usually a quick rinse with fresh water will do.

Filter inserts may also benefit from a quick rinse. Generally they do not need changed at the same frequency as water changes are completed.

We strongly recommend avoiding overstocking the fish tank, because it results in increased waste in limited space. Consequently, maintaining a healthy aquarium becomes an uphill battle.

What to avoid when changing water
Occasionally we experience deteriorating water conditions, an algae outbreak, or green aquarium water. It is important to take measured action, when attempting to correct these problems.

A common overreaction is to go BIG. It is tempting, and even seems sensible, to change nearly all the aquarium water. Furthermore, thoroughly cleaning the filter, and replacing all filter media is not always helpful. Only on rare occasions is such drastic action recommended.

The result of these actions, individually or combined, can lead to a severe decline in nitrifying bacteria. When you decrease the population of this beneficial bacteria, the result is a disruption of organic waste breakdown in the aquarium.

Ultimately this can lead to worsening tank conditions, including a rise of water toxicity from increases in ammonia and nitrite, more severe algae outbreaks and dense green aquarium water.

Good intentions can lead to excessive action, resulting in an unbalanced and toxic aquatic environment.

General Aquarium Water Change Guidelines
Water temperature should be +/- 5 degrees F of the tank water
Use a water conditioner. Fresh water added to the aquarium should be free of chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals (lead, copper)
Never use hot water to adjust the temperature inside the aquarium. It can severely shock fish. Furthermore, older hot water tanks may contain toxic levels of zinc
If using tap water, let the water run for a minute to clear the lines of possible dirt particles
Know what you’re adding to your fish tank! Check tap water check for nitrates. More importantly make sure the pH and kH match that of your aquarium

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Choosing the Right Aquarium Fish Food

The nutritional requirements of aquarium fish vary greatly depending on species, as well as age. For example, juveniles require more protein and the carnivore is not properly cared for when mostly feeding greens. To maintain healthy fish, it is essential to choose the right aquarium fish food.
Proper dietary selection also is determined on the eating times and habits of fish. Special consideration is needed for nocturnal fish, day dwellers, top feeders, bottom feeders, etc. Offering a variety of floating and sinking pellets should be a staple in any community tank. Alternate food options should be weekly regulars ensuring a proper diet.

Above all, think moderation and variety.
Avoid overfeeding your aquarium fish.

Always observe the fish during feeding. Little to no appetite indicates water problems (environment) or unhealthy fish (disease).

Dry Foods
Dry foods come as flakes, granules, pellets, sinking, floating, and anything in-between. These are species-specific, off-the-shelf, ready-to-serve choices covering the basic nutritional requirements.

Frozen Foods
The freezer section of the pet store holds a wide variety of frozen treats. Starting from frozen shrimp, bloodworms, plankton, prawn, krill, beef heart, mussels, etc. They’re usually available in special or variety packs. Veggies and spirulina are also available in freezer packs. The common pre-portioned cubes should first be dissolved, then strained before added to the aquarium.

Greens
A good alternate and healthy addition is salad, cucumber, zucchini, spinach etc. These can be clipped (using a veggie clip) to the side of the tank, or held in place near the substrate using the aquariums decor. Greens should be removed, or replaced, within 24 hours. Adding greens is a good way to keep fish from eating plants.

Live Foods
Besides shrimp popular live foods include feeder fish. Feeder fish are often fed to larger carnivores and should not be used regularly. Worms are available at bait shops, and some live food can be effortlessly cultivated at home.

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Aquarium Fish Food and Diet Requirements

Feeding your fish an improper diet is as common a mistake as overfeeding.
Providing the correct diet is essential for fish growth and health. Dietary deficiencies will not only shorten the lifespan of fish and cause many diseases, but will also contribute to a deteriorating water quality by polluting the water.

The diet of fish varies based on their individual nutritional needs. Some require meaty foods (carnivores), some plants (herbivores) and some a combination of both (omnivores).

Besides requiring specific dietary and nutritional needs, fish also have varying feeding habits. Generally three feeding groups can be identified. There are bottom feeders, mid-water feeders, and top or surface feeders. Fish are usually easily categorized by their mouths. While bottom feeders have downward positioned mouth, an upward facing mouth is easily distinguishable for surface feeders.

To accommodate feeding preferences and habits, fish food is available in many shapes and sizes: flakes, pellets (sinking and floating), live foods, frozen, dried food, small, medium, and large for all species in various sizes and forms.

In nature, fish scavenge for food all day long, detecting food by various techniques such as movement, smell, visually, taste, color, and flavor. In aquariums fish need to be “trained” to eat food that otherwise would not be part of their diet.

Aquarium fish food consists basically of proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The diet is composed based on nutritional needs:
Carnivore Herbivore Omnivore
Protein 50-70 15-30 30-40
Fiber 2-4 2-6 3-8
Fat 3-6 1-3 2-5
Values are in %, average moisture content 6-10% and ~ 40% of carbohydrates.

Fish need protein mainly for their growth. Fish in general need less food to grow than other animals. It has to be noted that adult fish will not utilize all the protein provided in the food. It is important to use less protein rich foods for adult fish because the excess protein is being excreted as ammonia.

Fry need more protein, so do fast moving fish. High protein diets are recommended to make fish spawn as more protein is needed for egg production.

Less protein is required for cool water species like goldfish as the metabolism slows significantly the lower the temperature.

Most fish do fine with the animal protein contained in fish food, some herbivores nevertheless do require plant protein which can be supplied by spirulina or similar algae flakes or wafers.

Fats and carbohydrates provide energy and free proteins for growth. There are some fats that provide pigments responsible for color especially red yellow and green.

On the fish food ingredient list, fat is generalized.

Fat actually consists of dozens of fatty acids (lipids) each plays an important role. Fatty acids differ in freshwater and marine foods and can therefore not be interchanged as it would lead to fatty acid deficiencies (liver damage, bacterial diseases, shortened life span). Too much fat (feeder fish) should be avoided.

Carbohydrates are not essential for growth but energy. Fish food contains largely about 50% protein and 40% carbs. For growing fish, the carbs should be limited to allow more protein in the diet, while adult fish should be fed more carbs then protein.

Vitamins are the catalysts for biochemical reactions. Deficiencies will result in retarded growth or diseases.

In the same way as with human beings, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can only be digested directly instead of being absorbed via proteins in prepared foods. Vitamin C is essential in tissue building and calcification of bones.

The main problem in providing vitamin C is the rapid decomposition in water. Ascorbic acid oxidizes in the water, increasingly so with a higher water temperature. High moisture content in the food and wrong storage will further deplete vitamin C. The same holds true for other vitamins especially Vitamin B which is responsible for the breakdown of carbohydrates (B1) as well as hormone production and metabolism (B5).

Vitamins C and B are depleted by oxygenation within roughly one minute, which significantly increases the meaning of feeding only as much as a fish can eat within one minute.

Liquid vitamin supplements are totally useless for freshwater fish because they don’t drink water. Vitamins are best supplemented by first feeding them to brine shrimp which will ingest them and therefore become live “carriers”. Fish can then eat vitamin “enriched” shrimp. The same method can also be applied to medication, using the shrimp as carriers instead of medicating the whole system.

Minerals serve as building blocks for bones and scales among others. Phosphates and calcium are the most important representatives of the mineral group. Both elements as well as sodium, potassium and other important minerals can be found in the water column itself as they are only necessary in limited amounts.

With all the food varieties on hand, it is important to provide a balanced and nutritional diet with a variety in food choices. Since fish food deteriorates as soon as it is opened, small containers should be the packaging of choice.

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Where Does Aquarium Nitrate Come From?

There are various sources of aquarium nitrate, some can be avoided and some are inevitable. Remember, high nitrate concentrations in the fish tank are the primary cause of algae outbreaks and green aquarium water!
Avoidable sources of aquarium nitrate
Tap water contains nitrate
This includes both city and well water. City water is normally regulated not to exceed a nitrate concentration of 40 ppm. Well water should be tested as nitrate levels could be well above those levels. If your tap water contains significant levels of nitrate, consider diluting it with bottled water when doing water changes.

Plant fertilizers: Nitrate is a main ingredient
Fertilizers are another source of nitrate. Aquarium plant fertilizer should be used with care. If the aquatic plant life is healthy, it is best to steer clear of fertilizers. Fertilizers should only be used if plant life is showing signs of nutrient deficiency.

Unavoidable nitrate sources
First and foremost… fish food!
Fish food is the primary pollutant of the aquarium. Feeding responsibly is the single most important thing a fish keeper can do. Uneaten fish food will decay in the tank and inevitably produce nitrate. Eaten fish food will eventually pass through the fish and pollute the aquarium also resulting in an increase in nitrate levels. Good to know: The higher the protein level of food the higher the resulting nitrate formation. All decaying organic matter, including fish food and fish waste will result in an increase of nitrate. Feed responsibly. In most cases what the fish can consume in about 1 minute once a day is adequate.

Decaying organic matter
Other common sources of nitrate production include decaying plant matter, decomposing algae and any other organic matter left to essentially ‘rot’ in the tank. To avoid excess nitrate it is essential to periodically rinse the filter media, bio balls, siphon the aquarium gravel and clean any other areas/equipment that traps organic waste.

Remember: Never use soap or bleach to clean. Simply rinse with cold fresh water.

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Aquarium Maintenance Tips and Fish Care Guidelines

Spending about thirty minutes on aquarium maintenance every other week, helps prevent common and time consuming problems.

The main goal of routine maintenance is a stable and balanced aquarium.

If everything is running properly and your fish are healthy, there is no need for any major change, even if the pH or hardness is slightly out of range. Only increases or decreases of any major water parameter will require careful but immediate attention.

Aquarium Water Changes
Water changes are arguably the most important part of routine aquarium maintenance
Scheduled aquarium maintenance would not be complete without the water change. We recommend an average water change of 10 – 15%, every two weeks.

Maximize your efforts by using a siphon to extract aquarium water while “vacuuming” the gravel. This will remove uneaten fish food, fish excrement, and other harmful waste settled at the bottom of the aquarium.

Tap water (municipal water) contains chlorine or chloramine. Chlorine will air out if kept in an aerated bucket for twenty-four hours. Chloramine will not. Chloramine = chlorine + ammonia.

Either way, it is best to use a water conditioner to neutralize the chlorine. We should note that ammonia will remain in the water if it contained chloramine, even after treatment with a conditioner. Nitrifying bacteria will break down the ammonia after adding the water to the aquarium.

Do not overfeed or over stock the aquarium. The increased waste will result in difficulty maintaining a healthy fish tank.
Other elements of municipal water may be phosphates, iron, and other heavy metals. Contact your water company if you aren’t sure it’s safe for use in your aquarium.

Generally, well water is harder than municipal water, but it should be chlorine and chloramine free.

If you are using filtered water, it’s still a good habit to regularly check it for vital parameters. Replace the filter membranes according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Testing the Aquarium Water
Regular aquarium maintenance would not be complete without testing important water parameters
Because we can’t determine water quality by looking at it, it is very important to do regular testing. Testing your aquarium water is like checking the body’s vital signs. The results can tell us a lot about imbalances, therefore allowing us to detect and prevent looming problems.

Vital parameters to test as part of routine aquarium maintenance include nitrate, nitrite, pH, carbonate hardness, and salinity (saltwater only)
We highly recommend including testing in your regular maintenance schedule. Below are our basic guidelines for testing important aquarium water parameters.

Nitrates
Nitrates should be kept below 10 ppm in freshwater, and 5 ppm or lower in saltwater and reef aquariums.

Nitrites
Nitrites should be undetectable at all times (except during cycling). If nitrite is detectable, be sure to test for ammonia as well.

pH
pH must remain stable. pH in the range of 6.5 – 7.5 is suitable for most species, but they should be fine if it’s slightly out of range.

KH (carbonate hardness)
KH (carbonate hardness) is a measure of pH stability. If KH drops close to 4.5 dH (degree hardness) or 80 ppm, you should monitor it frequently. If hardness drops below 45 dH, the pH of the aquarium water will crash.

A half teaspoon of baking soda per twenty-five gallons of water, raises kH by approximately 1 dH (17.8 ppm).

Filter Maintenance
Regular aquarium maintenance includes servicing the filter
The aquarium filter should be serviced monthly. A densely stocked aquarium may require more frequent filter cleanings.

Think of your aquarium’s filter the same way you think of your kitchen trash can. The filter is nothing more than a receptacle for waste. Once it gets “full”, you need to empty it, otherwise it will contaminate the home of your fish.

Servicing and maintaining the filter is simple and straight forward. Change dirty filter inserts, along with any media (activated carbon, Algone, etc.) that is due to bereplaced.

Occasionally a complete rinse of the filter is also required. The frequency depends on individual tank conditions, but generally once every 4 weeks is adequate. Avoid touching the bio wheels or any other beneficial bacteria supporting media during this process.

Important: Only use clean, fresh water when rinsing the filter or any other aquarium equipment. Never scrub the inside of the filter. Do not use soap, bleach, or chemical cleaners, because they will kill the beneficial bacteria required for healthy aquarium life.

Recommended Aquarium Maintenance Routine
A complete aquarium maintenance schedule includes daily, weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly tasks
Daily
Make sure the equipment is running properly.
Watch your fish during feeding. Behavioral changes are a good indicator of a potential problem.
Weekly
Count your fish. In case of fish death, smaller species can decompose quickly, resulting in ammonia and nitrite spikes, and eventually high nitrate levels.
Every Other Week
Test your water for vital parameters: pH, carbonate hardness, nitrite, and nitrate.
Clean the aquarium walls. Filter floss is fairly cheap and very efficient. Start from the bottom upward and rinse filter floss or scrubber frequently.
Vacuum the gravel.
Change 10-15% of the water.
Rinse filter inserts with the extracted water.
Monthly
Replace filter inserts, cartridges, floss, carbon, and Algone. Rinse entire filter if needed.
Inspect tubing, connections, airstones, skimmers and other parts for proper operation.
Clean aquarium top to assure your lighting is not affected.
Check the expiration dates printed on the boxes and bottles of the aquarium supplies you use. Do not use after the imprinted date. Expired test kits will give false readings and may prompt you to take unnecessary action.
In Conclusion
Every aquarium is different and will require a maintenance schedule that is best suited for its unique conditions. Use our aquarium maintenance guidelines outlined in this article as a starting point. From there, you will be able to set your own timelines.

Always remember, it is far more challenging to maintain an overstocked and overfed aquarium, so make sure to avoid both.

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Common Aquarium & Fish Keeping Mistakes

Tank selection, type of filtration, filtration output, substrate, lighting… making the right selections and avoiding some of the most common mistakes from the start will get your aquarium up and running successfully. Use this guide to navigate some of the initial questions you should ask.
Tank / Aquarium Selection
An aquarium is a closed replica of a natural ecosystem. The smaller the copy, the more difficult it is to maintain. A common misconception is that small tanks are ideal for beginners. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Ideal beginner tank is around 30 Gallons. The cost of a 10 Gallon tank compared to a 30 Gallon tank may initially seem somewhat substantial, however the money spent trying to maintain and correct many problems associated with small tanks is worth considering. Consider spending a few extra dollars when getting a new tank.

Problems: With small aquariums, it is difficult to maintain a stable environment. Fluctuations in vital water parameters combined with overstocking and overfeeding results in fish stress and nutrient accumulation, both affecting the overall health of the fish.

A filter should be able to turn the entire tank at least 2-3 times per hour (i.E. 60 – 90 gallons of filtration for a 30 gallon tank). The more the better. You can not over-filter. Lighting should also be chosen according to the set-up. Fish only and planted tanks have different lighting requirements. Light bulbs should be replaced at least every 6 – 12 months.

Problems: Light is energy. Fish only tanks should have a lighting period of 8–10 hours and planted tanks 10-12 hours. Aging light bulbs and insufficient light will result in decaying plants.


Aquarium Substrate
Gravel comes in many shapes and colors, which should not be the primary criteria for selecting the right type. Gravel should be selected with your specific setup in mind. Plants require an iron rich substrate such as vermiculite to store minerals, marine set ups aragonite and sand to enhance the pH level. The gravel size should be suitable to create a habitat for crabs and bottom dwelling critters.

Problems: Unsuitable gravel influences vital water parameters and causes fluctuations that result in unhealthy environments.


The cycle is probably the most misunderstood topic of all, and the source of many problems that can be easily avoided.

The cycle describes the break-in period of the aquarium to make it suitable for the inhabitants. Bacteria have to settle and build colonies, which break down the waste from toxic ammonia to nitrite and the less toxic nitrate. This process usually takes between 3-6 weeks.

The most common mistake during the cycle is the use of ammonia neutralizing supplements. Ammonia is needed for the bacteria to build the colonies. The use of such products will interrupt the process of establishing the aquarium. The aquarium will not cycle.

The beneficial bacteria are commercially available in liquid and pulverized form. Adding these supplements can greatly reduce the time frame of the cycle. Adding these supplements after nitrates are measurable (meaning the tank has cycled) will create water pollution.


Choosing Fish
Fish should initially be chosen according to the environment that they will be placed in. Most fish can tolerate slight variations in pH and temperature as long as it stays stable. The water should not be treated to suit specific fish, fish should be introduced that are suited for the water and the environment created.
A beginner tank can be a fresh or marine set-up. There is no graduation from fresh to salt, as the principals are alike. The graduation takes place in keeping the fish healthy and to move on to more delicate species.
The rule of thumb in stocking the aquarium is one inch of fish per 12 square inches of water surface. The better the filtration and maintenance schedule, the more fish can slowly be added.
Not all fish are compatible and should therefore be chosen carefully.


Aquarium Maintenance
Maintaining an aquarium can be very simple, if done regularly. Water changes of 10-20% every other week,vacuuming the gravel, and rinsing the filter cartridges will do in most cases.
Tap water contains chlorine/chloramine, both substances should be removed by a water conditioner.
The vital water parameters such as pH, hardness, ammonia and nitrate, (salinity for marine) should be tested before every water change. These values can indicate a problem before it becomes visible.
Neglecting tank maintenance can have serious long term problems. As only pure water evaporates, water changes are necessary not just to remove substance build-up, but also to replenish minerals that are diminished.

Do not clean the filters, except for a quick rinse. The slimy substance within, is the protective coat of the beneficial bacteria.

Fish always look hungry. In nature they search for food all day long. Fish should be fed only as much as they can eat within 2 minutes. This amount can be fed at once, or stretched out to 2-3 feedings per day.
Overfeeding is the leading source of accumulating waste and related to many aquarium problems.

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Bacteria and Antibiotics in the Aquarium

Friendly aquarium bacteria include the scavenging, decomposing bacteria digesting uneaten fish food, plant matter, dead algae, and basically everything that consist of organic matter.
The nitrifying bacteria aka nitrifiers aka beneficial bacteria, convert ammonia (resulting from bacterial activity, fish waste etc.) into the less toxic compounds of nitrite and nitrate. On rare occasions, denitrifying bacteria can settle in oxygen free areas and transform nitrate into oxygen and nitrogen gas.

‘Unfriendly’ bacteria are summarized as pathogenic, disease causing bacteria.
Pathogenic bacteria are opportunistic, meaning as long as the fish is healthy, it will not be bothered. Some bacteria are present at all times and in a constant fight with the fishs’ immune system. A strong immune system allows the survival of the bacteria strain without harming the fish.

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Bacterial infections are secondary diseases, they can only prevail if the fish is weakened under stressful conditions (heat, ammonia, nitrite, high organics, low dissolved oxygen etc.), resulting in rapidly multiplying pathogens.

A stressed and weak fish with pathogenic bacteria present results in a bacterial infection, which will be fatal if left untreated. A bacterial infection can therefore be defined as by pathogens outgrowing the defending cells of the immune system.

Any time a bacterial disease occurs adjustments in the aquatic environment need to be made in order to lessen and to eliminate stress causing factors to the fish. Bacterial diseases should be treated with antibiotics, preferably in a quarantine/hospital tank.
Antibiotics function by slowing down the pathogens thus increasing the immune systems efficiency. Nevertheless, it is the immune system that cures the disease not the antibiotic.

To achieve a slowdown, antibiotics interfere with the reproductive mechanisms of the pathogen by interrupting its lifecycle.

The two relating terms are antibiotics and antibacterial. While antibiotics are naturally produced by a microorganism to kill another microorganism, antibacterial substances such as sulfa and furans are manufactured artificially. (The term antibiotic is further used in this text referring to both, antibiotic and antibacterial).

To apply the correct antibiotic to a given pathogen the pathogens cell wall is decisive for the determination. Pathogens have either a thin or a thick cell wall.

The method to differentiate between the two main types of bacterial cell walls is called the “Gram Staining Technique”. Developed by the Danish physician Hans Christian Gram, Gram stained bacteria samples with the coloring agent crystal violet then applied potassium iodide resulting in a water insoluble blue-purple discoloration of the bacteria. Adding ethanol-alcohol as a decolorizing compound, the bacteria either retained the blue-purple color or turned red following a treatment with Safranin a counter-stain used for visibility purposes.

The blue-purple color indicates a thick cell wall and is called “gram positive”, while red indicates a thin cell wall and is referred to as “gram negative”.

This is of importance because of the response towards certain antibiotics.

Antibiotics against (thick wall) gram positive pathogens prevent the build up and repair of the cell wall whicheventually will lead to the cell content leaching out, consequently killing the pathogen. Antibiotics against (thin wall) gram negative attack by interfering with the protein synthesis (metabolic process) therefore eliminating the cells ability to produce food.

Gram positive antibiotics will not have any effect on gram negative bacteria nor will gram negative antibiotics have an effect on gram positive bacteria.

The most common pathogen in the aquarium are the aeromonad species for freshwater and its counterpart vibrionaceae in marine and reefs. Both are gram negative and everywhere present in the aquarium as part of the bacterial flora.

Aeromonads/vibrionaceae can be responsible for dropsy, abdominal swellings, skin ulcers, red patches, fin and tail rot and pop-eye.

General indicators of bacterial diseases can be disformed frayed fins, open sores, red steaks on fins or along the fish body, grey film on eyes, swollen or bloated belly, lethargic behavior, loss of appetite to name a few.

Antibiotics for use in the aquarium come in all forms and shapes – liquid, powder, or tablets.
It is essential to determine the disease causing bacteria in order to apply the correct antibiotic. The application dosage and time frame should be followed according to manufacturer’s recommendations.

Some common antibiotics used in aquariums
Erythromycin which treats gram positive bacteria and is best used in an alkaline environment (pH of 7 and up).
Aminoglycosides marketed as neomycin, kanamycin and streptomycin are active against gram negative bacteria and work well in alkaline water conditions.
Sulfonamide known as sulfa or triple sulfa have antibacterial characteristics inhibiting the growth of bacteria. An alkaline environment is preferred and sulfonamide as well as aminoglycosides can be used in marine environments.
Nitrofurans (furane, nitrofurazone) are also antibacterial but will loose their potency with increasing pH levels. They are therefore preferred freshwater treatments as is the tetracycline group.
Tetracycline is bacteriostatic, inhibiting protein synthesis. This drug will get less effective in hard waters as it readily binds with calcium and magnesium.
Quinolones, antibacterial to treat gram negative bacteria, prevents DNA synthesis and can be used in a broad pH spectrum.
Bacterial diseases in fish can face antibiotic resistance, which means that the bacteria strain has mutated leaving it unaffected by the antibiotic. Another antibiotic will have to be used should this occur.

Bacterial diseases are not contagious and infected fish should be treated separately in a well aerated hospital tank. Antibiotics are potent by themselves and never meant to be used in combination, as some of them can eliminate each other or create toxic effects for fish.