Freshwater/Planted EDU PAGES

How to care for live Aquarium Plant:

Plants can play an important role in aquarium life. They help to absorb nitrites that are toxic to the fish. They will also help absorb nurtients that tend to casue problem algae. There are many different varieties of aquatic plants that can suit any budget and skill levels. Bunched plants are a type of plant that needs to be anchored by the root to the bottom of the tank in the sand or substrate. They may be tied or simply buried underneath the substrate in the bottom of the aquarium. There are also potted plants that tend to have a more established root base. These plants can be removed from their pots and allow you to spead them throughout the entire aquarium. There are type of floating plants. As their name suggests they simply float in the tank they do not need to be anchored and will not usually require fertilizer. The only regular care required is to make sure that water droplets are not regularly deposited on the leaves, as this will cause decay.


Water lettuce and Lily pads are examples of floating plants. Some floated plants can grow so aggressivly that they can block out light and clog filter intakes so make sure to keep them under control. Bunched plants, need to be anchored to the bottom of the tank. If you choose to do so these plants can be tied to pieces of rock or wood for a more attractive look. These species usually grow to be fairly tall and will add height to an aquarium. When planting these, remember to allow plenty of room for growth. Another type of aquatic plant is known as cuttings that are usually in plastic pots. These plants may be transplanted from other thriving plants. Cuttings should be planted individually. They will grow vertically and sprout shoots at the joints of the leaves. When these shoots grow to be a couple of inches, it is time to cut them and plant them individually.

Live plants may be kept in aquariums alone or with fish it is a very popular trend in the aquarium industry right now. The plants may even be used as a food source for some species of omnivorous fish like goldfish. At the very least, they will provide shelter and a feeling of refuge for the fish plus are more natural to look at. All plants require some form of light in order to thrive through photosynthesis. We carry many varieties of plants for all typoes of lighting. Check the specifics on the types of plants you purchase with our sales representative. Some plants will thrive on the organics put out by the fish in the aquarium, while others will require regular fertilization. You can fertilize thorugh the leaves with a liquid fertilizer or through the roots with root tab supplemants. We can give you suggestions on your plants requirements and the fertilizers you could use. In a healthy planted tank live plants should be pruned weekly or bi-weekly. Dead or broken leaves should be removed when possible. A live plant aquarium will require the same basic filtration needed for an aquarium containing fish. You will need a tank, filtration system, lighting ranging from advanced to beginer, and some basic cleaning tools. The plants are fairly easy to care for, but you do have to keep up with your regular maintenance schedule and water changes. If you dont want the extra care or cost of live plants synthetic plants may be a good alternative. Fake plants have come a long way in recent years on thier looks, appearance, and realism. So much so, that your fish may not even notice the difference between live and fake plants. Whether you choose live or synthetic plants, they will add interest and life to any type of aquarium.

Ten Easy Steps to a Successful Freshwater Aquarium Installation

1. Rinse out the tank and wash the gravel with water (do not use soap or chemicals).
2. Put your tank on a strong base away from direct sunlight, heat vents and air conditioning vents. If not using a stand purchased from SF&P, make sure your tank is on a suitable flat surface where water staining is not aproblem, not Grandma’s old oak dresser or the antique armoire.
3. Gently pour the clean gravel into your tank.
4. Setup the filter and pump following the manufacturers instructions. Read and follow all equipment instructions.
5. Position landscaping materials such as stones, wood and aquarium ornaments in the gravel.
6. Fill the tank half way with water; try not to disturb the gravel.
7. Add your plants (artificial, live or both). Place the plants in groups with taller plants in the back. Dig small holes inthe gravel to put the roots or base in. Push the gravel around the bottom of the plants.
8. Fill your tank with water.
9. Add water conditioner to neutralize chlorine instantly.
10. Place the cover and light on the tank. Turn on the filter, pumps and lights. Leave the filter and pump running at all times. Check for leaks and temperature (74 to 78 degrees). Allow setup to cycle for a day.

For success things to remember

For beginers, wait at least 24 hours before adding fish to your tank. Start with a few fish at first, in order to start abiological filter, i.e. 6 to 10 small fish for a 10 to 20 gallon aquarium. Use bacteria stimulants such as Seachem Stability or Hagen Cycle to help in the cycling of the aquarium. After 7 days, before your purchase any more fish bring in a water sample so we can verify good water tank conditions. Feed fish so they eat all food off the top of the water in about 30 to 60 seconds, allowing none to settle to the bottom. (If it looks like it’s snowing in the tank, you’ve put in too much.) Feed for a total of 5 minutes, 1 or 2 times a day.

Tank Maintenance

Simple partial water change with a Gravel vacuum, is the best way to maintain water quality and healthy fish. Removing 1/3 of the water off the bottom, every 3 or 4 weeks, will help maintain good aquarium conditions. You can also perform water changes on a week to bi-weekly basis 10-15% would be adequate. Replacement water should be same temperature, dechlorinated, using Prime or any other water conditioner. Any algae that may form needs simply to be wiped away with an algae pad. Once you see visible algae growth it is okay to add an algae eater such as a plecostomas. Leave your aquarium light off part of the time (8-12 hour light cycle on a timer is ideal) and place a background on your tank to reduce light and possible algae growth.

Betta Care

Betta’s fish are beautiful, hardy fish that do not require much space or pricey equipment. These fish have a special organ which allows them to breathe air at the surface of the water this makes filtration not necessarily required. This allows Bettas to live in small, oxygen poor bodies of water. These fish are personable and will often come out and get excited at feeding time and can even be trained to eat from a “feeding wand!”
➣ Common Name: Betta / Siamese Fighting Fish
➣ Scientific Name: Betta splendens
➣ Distribution: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam
➣ Size: 2-3 ” Life Span: 3-5 years

A Betta should be kept in no less than one gallon of water. We have several betta aquariums that will do just fine. An aquarium substrate such as small gravel provides living space for beneficial bacteria and will help keep your Betta tank clean. Provide decorations and hiding areas such as Betta Plants, Ceramic Betta Log and Floating Betta Log.

Bettas are tropical fish. Your Betta’s tank should be kept between 74 and 80°F but stability of the water temp is the key. A small size Betta bowl Heater will help maintain proper temperatures in your Betta’s Bowl and help with stability. It is important to keep your Betta’s water clean. Do partial water changes once a week to keep your fish healthy. Be sure to use a betta water conditioner such as Zoo Med’s Betta H2O to remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water.

In the wild, bettas eat small insects, worms and crustaceans which provide high levels of proteins and fats. A variety of foods should be offered to keep your Betta healthy they also seem to change their taste for food at different times.
A good quality pellet food such as Zoo Med’s Micro Floating Betta Pellets should be given as the main part of your fish’s diet Zoo Med’s Dial-A- Treat is a great supplemental food for Bettas and gives them the variety they desire. Food should be offered once a day or tiny bit 2x a day. Always remove uneaten food from the tank after about 5 minutes to prevent polluting the water. We do carry a selection of Betta Banquet Blocks will help you feed your Betta for up to a week when you are out of town!

Bettas are “lazy” fish that spend a great deal of the day “laying around”. A Betta Leaf Hammock provides a resting place near the surface of the water for your Betta. Bettas are territorial fish and should never be housed together. The sight of another Betta will trigger the fish to put on a threat display. He will flare out his fins and “dance” back and forth showing off his fins. A Betta Exercise Mirror allows your Betta to practice this natural behavior for a few moments a day. Bettas will often “attack” their food as soon as you put it in the tank. They can even be trained to eat pellets from a feeding wand!

Freshwater Fish Basics

Community- 6.5 to 7.5 pH Neutral Water
Dwarf Gouramies, chuna Gouramies. Minnows, rasboras, tetras, dwarf cichlids, are most peaceful.

Large Community-6.5 to 7.5 pH Neutral Water
Adult tetras, angels, Larger gouramies, danios, sharks, rainbows, barbs are sometimes semi-aggressive

Livebearer – Higher pH, Alkaline Water
Most require some extra rock salt, or water hardener a TABLESPOON per 5 gal min. Mollies, and swordtail can sometimes pick on stationary fish or smaller fish. Platies and guppies are considered community and less aggressive.

Goldfish – Neutral to 7.5 pH
Need more plant protein than meat protein. Too much high protein can cause liver damage as fish gets older and lead to swim bladder issues, Goldfish have no stomach, but just one big long intestine and need to snack all day. That’s why they need live plants in the tank to munch on, or algae supplements. Preventing problems with the swim bladder caused by the wrong diet is much easier than trying to treat it. It usually causes permanent damage. They produce more slime and mess than tropical fish and are best with same fin types, i.e., no fantail fish with single tail fish. Sometimes smaller faster moving goldfish will chew the fins off a larger, slow moving fantail goldfish. Dojos are good companions as they can handle cool water. If the tank is kept heated at least 70 degrees, plecos are okay although you need to make sure they do not suck the scales or slime of the goldfish. Clown, Rubber, or Bristlenose would be the best because they stay a bit smaller Chinese algae eaters ok but will suck on any fish that will remain still for it and get more aggressive the bigger they get. Snails are okay for algae, but are very sensitive to fluoride and water quality. Aged water is best.

South American Cichlids – 6 to 7.5 pH Soft Water-Harder water
Dwarfs are okay in some tanks, the rest have varying degrees of aggressiveness. Some fish can be extremely aggressive in certain instances or less aggressive it just depends on many variables. Tank size, fish sizes, order of addition, decorative areas etc. are all attributing factors on haw a fish could act. Generally though, the size of the tank is the biggest determining factor of aggressiveness. Nothing will get along with an aggressive fish in a 20 gallon tank if it is already 4 inches long and well established, where as if you have a 250 gallon tank they should do ok, in most cases, anyway! Most American cichlids are considered aggressive for their temperament and the sizes they get.

African Cichlids – 7 to 8.2 pH African Cichlid Salts- Hard Water
African Cichlids are generally very aggressive and territorial. In fact size for size, African cichlids is probably the most aggressive fish available. They should be kept with their like species of fish or fish that can handle the higher pH and aggressive nature. Adding these fish is a bit different then other types of fish you may add. You purposely want to overstock the aquarium and add multiple fish at a time to avoid territory issues and extreme aggressive behavior. Changing up the décor of the tank and having tons of hiding places can help with the introduction of fish into the aquarium. .

Brackish – 7 to 8 pH, Marine or Rock Salt- Hard Water
Some fish, like monos, can actually be acclimated to both brackish and saltwater. Most are very adaptable, but require at least 2 tablespoons per 5 gallons. One tablespoon per gallon is real brackish, 1.010. Most fish are comfortable anywhere in between. 1.001-1.010. Most are aggressive and nippy, puffers especially. Monos and scats do best singly or in groups of 3 or more. Most grow quite large so plan your tank accordingly.

Dry food works fine but most fish benefit from being fed a mix of foods. Frozen and freeze dried treats are a great way to alternate food consistencies and formulas. Remember, the goal is to help your fish thrive in their new home.

Checklist for Freshwater fish tank

➣  Tank Location: Choose a location away from direct sun, heat vents and air conditioning vents. The ideal location will help determine your aquarium shape and size.
➣  Fish Tank: Choose the shape and size you like. A larger tank is generally easier, as the environment is morestable. Although smaller tanks are becoming more and more popular they can require just as much care as largertanks.
➣  Cover & Light: The fish tank cover keeps fish in and airborne pollutants out. The light is in the cover.
➣  Table or Stand to hold your aquarium: An approved aquarium stand is ideal to place your aquarium on. Choose a table or stand that will easily support your filled aquarium. A gallon of water weights approximately eight pounds, and the tank set-up could weigh anywhere from 10-15lbs per gallon
➣  Filter: A successful aquarium has three types of filtration: mechanical, biological and chemical.
❖ ;  Mechanical filtration removes particles from the water.
❖ ;  Biological filtration converts fish waste products into nontoxic compounds by using beneficial bacteria.
❖ ;  Chemical filtration removes types of dissolved organic compounds from the water and can help with odors and poor clarity.
➣  Air Pump: Pumps provide oxygen in the water. Choose your air pump based on the kind of filter you get.
➣  Plants: Choose from a variety of live and/or artificial plants. Plants add beauty to your tank and your fish with the security of hiding places. If you want to go with live plants you can, you just may have to upgrade your lighting system. Live plants provide oxygen, help water quality and control the growth of algae.
➣  Gravel: Place gravel in the bottom of your tank according to your tank decor. Use one pound of gravel per gallon of tank size. Gravel should be 1 -2 inches deep. You may need to pre-wash your aquarium gravel before it goes into the aquarium.
➣  Landscaping Materials: Use material made for aquariums, including ornaments, stones, real or imitation wood, to create a natural environment for your fish.
➣  Water Conditioner: Removes chlorine and heavy metals from your tap water to make it safe for your fish. It also adds electrolytes and reduces fish stress.
➣  Net: Use to place fish in the water or catch fish.
➣  Siphon Hose: Cleans gravel and siphons the water during the monthly 25% water change.
➣  Algae Scraper: Cleans algae off the glass on the inside of the tank.
➣  Thermometer: Choose from various types including floating, standing, stainless steel and liquid crystal thermometers. Water temperature should be maintained between 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit for most tropical fish.
➣  Heater: Helps you maintain a constant water temperature in the tank.
➣  Fish Food: Comes in several styles including flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, sun dried and granular. Choose food that is best suited to the types of fish you get.
➣  Tropical Fish: Choose fish that are compatible with each other. After setting up your tank wait at least 24 hours before adding fish. We suggest extremely hardy ammonia/nitrite tolerable fish to begin with. Then every week thereafter you can introduce more fish just make sure all your water parameter check out ok.

Freshwater Fish Care


At least a 10-gallon tank. The bigger, the better. Small tanks need frequent water exchanges to keep fish healthy.

Gravel – for decoration only. Under gravel filters don’t work well. We recommend Hang on Back Filters or Canister Filters However all type of filtration can be used you just may have to adjust your maintenance schedule accordingly.

Rocks and other tank decorations – make sure they are smooth with no sharp edges. Non porus decorations are easier to clean and disinfect.

Filter types: Box Filters or Outside Filters – use 2 filters (can be the same kind), if possible to keep one running while the other is being cleaned. A good filter has three parts:

Mechanical (for example, floss or pad to trap particles)

Chemical (for example, carbon to clean impurities)

Biological (high surface area for growing bacteria that remove ammonia, nitrite from water like bio-wheels, bio-balls, etc.).

Note: It is OK and you should clean/replace the mechanical and chemical filters. But, once bacteria are established (about 3-6 weeks), do not do anything to harm the bacterial component of the filter. Alternate cleaning each filter to keep bacterial colonies healthy and maintain good oxygen and water quality.

Add one or more aerators or bubblers to circulate water and keep oxygen levels up.  I you have adequate filtration and break  the surface of the water  you should have plenty of oxygen.   Implementing air is always suggested but not required.

Aquarium heater and thermometer

Fish food

Algae scraper (use special tools for acrylic tanks)


Water testing kits

Water conditioner – multi-purpose to remove ammonia, nitrite, chlorine/chloramines is best

Aquarium cover/light fixture (fluorescent works best for showing off your fish) – optional unless you’re keeping live plants
Where to Put Your Tank

Set your tank on sturdy table, stand or counter

Never put your tank in direct sunlight. This causes algae growth

Don’t put your tank beside heating or cooling vents


Preparing Your Tank

Set up your tank. Ideally, you should set up a smaller quarantine tank, too so you can isolate sick fish to treat.

Rinse gravel with clean water before adding it to tank. Empty bottoms with a hiding place work best for quarantine tanks.

Set up the filtration system, etc. Quarantine tanks may only need a bubbler since they are temporary, and daily water exchanges can be done to keep water safe for fish. Fill your tank with clean tap or well water.

Add a chemical neutralizer from an aquarium store. Find out the needs of any fish you plan to add to your tank. Test your water before you buy fish to make sure the water is right for your fish. Choose fish that can live in the water you have. Adjusted pH and water hardness is hard to maintain unless you are very experienced.


Adding Your Fish

It’s best to start with four to six small fish, or one or two medium fish per 10-20 gallons. Make sure all varieties get along. Quarantine (separate) the new fish for a few days to one week to make sure they are healthy before adding them to your main tank.

Float the bagged fish in the tank for 10 to 15 minutes for temperature adjustment.

Open the bags and carefully mix small amount of water into the bag.  Repeat every 5-10 minutes for the next 10-20 minutes

After the fish have been acclimating 25-35 minutes, open the bags and let the fish swim out. Do not add all the bag water to the tank!

Turn off aquarium light and keep noise low in the room for at least the first day. Feed fish on the second day.

Add a couple of fish each week if you are not experiencing any issues.  Each time you add fish make sure to test your water to make sure all water quality paramieters are ideal for fish

What to Feed Your Fish

Warning: It is very easy to overfeed and kill a fish. Fish can go several days without eating.

Dried flakes are more balanced. Live brine shrimp, bloodworms and tubifex worms are OK as supplements. Choose food that always offers your fish a variety of ingredients, texture, and formula.

Bottom feeders should have a pelleted bottom feed that you supplimant every 2-3 days.

Make sure all fish get the right kind of food based on the kind of fish they are

Feed fish only what they can eat in 5 minutes. Clean/remove uneaten food daily.

Turn aquarium light on/off. Long daylight causes algae growth.  It is ideal to set your tank on a timer so the lighting schedule is consistent.

Check water temperature to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cold.  Certain fish types vary their ideals temperatures, so make sure to ask us you fish ideal temperature.  As a general rule tropical fish prefer 74-78deg, but can take slightly lower or slightly higher.  Consistency is key.  Make sure your temperature does not fluctuate.

At first, check water quality daily when you’re adding fish to the tank or when starting up a tank. Use water conditioner and water exchanges as needed to maintain water quality.   Remember just remove water at this time gravel vacuuming is not recommended at the very beginning.


Remove 10-20% of water from tank and replace it with clean water. Aging is usually not needed when you use the right amount of water conditioner and when water is the same temperature as tank (within 2-3deg). Use a water condition to remover clorine and cloramines and to get you water ready for the fish.

Remove algae that builds up on tank

Replace mechanical/chemical filter as needed. It is best to service one filter at a time to avoid disturbing biological filter

As Needed: Clean your fish tank (see below)

How to Clean Your Fish Tank

Scrape/clean tank as needed. To avoid scratching your tank, use special tools for acrylic tanks.

Never use soap

Siphon the gravel and clean off the rocks and/or décor with water

Replace water removed with conditioned water as part of water exchanges (see above)


How to Tell if Your Fish is Sick
Get to know your fish. If they seem to be acting differently, contact your veterinarian. Here are some signs that your fish may be sick:

Eating less than normal

Gasping for oxygen, breathing heavy

Staying hidden or staying at top or bottom

Changes in behavior, color, skin or fins


Stressors – Avoid These

Poor water quality (ammonia, temperature, low oxygen, etc.)

Not enough space or habitat

Temperature changes

Varieties that don’t get along aggression from other tank mates

Power failures

Poor diet/vitamin deficiency

Netting your fish

Diseases from not quarantining

Tips on Keeping Goldfish in a Bowl

A very important fact to remember when caring for goldfish, is that it is not a good idea to keep them with tropical fish. For one, they don’t eat the same foods. Secondly, goldfish like colder waters than tropical fish. In addition, goldfish can be threatened by tropical fish. The long flowing fins and the slow motion of the goldfish make them irresistible targets to many fast fin nipping tropical fish. The stress can be very traumatic.
Starting Right
For best results, you should start by filling your goldfish bowl with “aged” or “conditioned water” found in existing aquariums. Typically, goldfish come from waters that are alkaline and slightly hard. Tap water is suitable for them, but it should be “conditioned” to rid it of chlorine or chloramine prior to pouring it into the bowl. This will prevent damage to the gills of the goldfish. You will then need the right, healthy goldfish. As a general rule, you should not keep more than two (2) inches of fish per gallon of water. For example, a 2-gallon fish bowl should not house more than two, 2-inch long goldfish.
It is very important to understand that goldfish do not tolerate tropical fish food well. Goldfish do not have a stomach. Food is absorbed as it travels through their intestines , so it must have a high alkaline content. Tropical fish food is too acidic for their digestive system. It is true that goldfish will eat tropical fish food, but they will reap very little nutritional benefit from it. Over time, feeding tropical fish food to goldfish will seriously affect their health and longevity. You must feed a designated Goldfish Food for best results.
Be very careful with your feedings. Overfeeding, especially in a small goldfish bowl, will cause the water to become cloudy and smelly from the accumulation of decayed food. This water will, in time, become harmful to the fish. When feeding, remember that less is best. A safe recommendation is to feed 2 to 4 pieces of flake or pellet food every other day.

Cleaning Your Goldfish Bowl
Since a goldfish bowl generally does not have a filtration system, you must be very careful when cleaning the bowl. Every 5 to 7 days, the fish keeper will need to pour the top 2/3 of the bowl water into a clean (uncontaminated) plastic or glass container. Then, carefully transfer the goldfish, using a net, into this holding container while the rest of the bowl is cleaned.
The remaining fish bowl water should be discarded. Once the bowl is empty, it can be rinsed out with fresh tap water. Never use glass cleaner, or any other chemical to clean the bowl, as these, even in trace amounts are toxic to the goldfish.
Once the fish bowl has been rinsed, 1/3 of the bowl can be filled with fresh tap water. Remember, the water must be conditioned to remove chlorine and chloramine. The water should be at room temperature or cooler. Goldfish are cold water fish, and prefer water temperature in the low 60’s. Carefully, pour both the goldfish and the old water back into the fish bowl. It is best to only fill the bowl 3/4 full. This allows for a larger water surface area, providing your fish with more oxygen. Your fish will breathe easier.

Freshwater Aquariums Aquascaping-Basics
A Chinese Emperor, Hungwu, established a company that is credited for building the first aquariums, in 1369. The aquariums Hungwu’s company designed were basically porcelain tubs that were then used to house Goldfish. As years passed, these tubs started shrinking in size until they bore a strong resemblance to the aquariums we are familiar with today. Almost five hundred years later, in 1841, a tropical aquarium was introduced to the world. At the time of its introduction, fish and a few aquatic plants were the only inhabitants.
Today creating and maintaining an aquarium is the one of the most popular hobbies in the world, second only to stamp collecting. It is believed that over sixty million people maintain aquariums in homes. It is guessed that forty percent of that sixty million are thought to have at least two active tanks.  As individuals become comfortable with their aquariums they start indulging in aquascaping.  Aquascaping is the process of using decorative aquarium wood, plants, and rocks in a pleasing manner that customizes an individuals planted aquarium.
The first thing you need to remember when aquascaping your aquarium is that the design you choose must compliment the needs of the fish you want in the tank. Before you begin, spend some time researching the natural habitat you desire. You’ll want to design a
tank that duplicates the fish’s natural environment. 
The use of live plants in your aquascaping project will add another dimension to your tank. There is something about the way the live plants look in the water that is both soothing and breathtaking. Keep in mind that fish, especially herbivore fish that eat plants, can be hard on living plants. If you suspect that the live plants won’t survive in your aquarium because of the fish, you should opt for the artificial variety. There are several lifelike artificial plants available. 
The use of exotic aquarium wood has become very popular in aquascaping of aquariums.  The price of decorative woods can sometimes be expensive but the natural beauty woods bring to any aquarium is unmatched.  There are a few things you need to consider when you are adding rocks to your aquascaping project. Avoid rocks that have sharp edges and points, fish can damage their tender underbellies on these rocks. If you are stacking a group of rocks together to make a cave or build up high use an aquarium safe silicone or aquarium epoxy to glue the rocks together is suggested, this will prevent the rocks from collapsing.  There are several styles of rock to choose from. Rocks like Dragon Stone are used to create a natural underwater world. While polished river rocks can de used to accent the gravel or substrate you use for the soil in your aquarium. There are several shapes and styles of rocks that you can use in your aquarium.
After finding decorative rocks it sometimes is suggested to test rocks ahead of time to make sure that they are not leeching toxic chemicals or heavy minerals into your aquarium. Best way to at least try and determine this is to get some purified water into a 5g bucket. Test the PH, General Hardness, and Carbonate hardness of that water. Place some rock inside the bucket for at least 24hrs. Test the water in the bucket after the rock has been sitting in the water. If the levels have remained close to the previous levels, then the rock should be okay to use. If the PH or harness levels have shot up, then you know that rock is releasing minerals into the water.
In conclusion don’t be afraid to try live plants in your aquarium. Plants do great in all types of aquariums as long as you choose the correct plants for correct lighting set-up you have. If you have low light then choose very low light type plants. Live aquarium plants only become a problem when you put them with the wrong fish or in the incorrect lighting set-up. You can always use a comprehensive liquid plant supplement to help your plants by providing elements the plant needs to grow and survive.  Putting in soil in your aquarium that is a planted substrate provides minerals to the root structure and a great area for roots to expand. If you want your planted tank to excel, then adding pressurized Co2 system is the best way to “super charge” your plants. Always remember to use your creative ideas to create your aquarium sanctuary and remember that there is truly no wrong aquascape design that you personally come up with.
Happy Scapping

New Tank Water Change Schedule

Congratulations on Your New Fresh Water Aquarium
Having a fish aquarium is relaxing and a lot of fun, though in the beginning must be watched and cared for more closely. It is difficult to be patient, but in the beginning you need to go slow because the environment is very sterile and not ready for a full load of fish.

After you have your aquarium running for a few days you can start adding fish. Make sure the temperature in the tropical aquarium is staying constant between 70 degrees F- 80 degrees F. (Goldfish prefer room temperature 70 degrees and lower.) The water needs to be clear and you need to add water conditioner.

  1. Adding Fish
    Add just a few fish to your new system along with a Seachem Stability or Hagen Cycle bacteria culture. (I.E. 10 gallon tank should only have 4 small fish added.) Make sure and refrigerate the culture after opening and add recommended dosage for your aquarium.) Keep in mind fish that feed off of the top of the water are better “beginning” fish. I.E. mollies, platys, swordtails, tiger barbs, opaline gouramies, gold gouramies, moonlight gouramies, and 3-spot gouramies.
    *****Keep in mind these fish may not be the ones you’ll want to permanently, want to keep, or will necessarily survive the new tank during the “cycling” period.
  2. Week One
    After the first week with fish in the aquarium do 1/3 of a water change with a siphon (gravel vacuum). DO NOT CLEAN YOUR GRAVEL OR FILTER INSERTS! You can rinse your sponge in dirty fish tank water. Remove any excess fish food or waste you may see by skimming the top of the gravel with your Siphon. After your tank cycles you can replace your charcoal insert and do monthly water changes from now on.
    When adding new water make sure the temperature is exactly the same as what is in your aquarium, add water conditioner and Seachem Stability or Hagen Cycle bacteria culture. At this time you can also add Prime to help the fish endure the higher ammonia levels.
  3. Week Two
    After the second week do the same as you did in step #2.  Make sure to monitor your water quality or bring a sample of water in to get analysed.  We offer complimentary water test.
  4. Week Three
    After the third week your ammonia level should be stabilized and you don’t need to do any water changes at this time.  You almost want the aquarium to get dirty in a sense to allow as much bacteria to harvest in you gravel bed and filter components as possible.  There is always a benefit to add your Seachem Stability or Hagen Cycle culture weekly until your Nitrite level lowers.  And you can always do partial water changes by just removing water to help keep your levels in check.  With these water changes you DO NOT want to disrupt your gravel bed or replace out your filter inserts you can damage the bacteria bed that is vital to success. The entire process for water stability can take up to 2 months.  You can always bring in water to be tested so we can give you advice on where your tank is.  

  5. Adding Scavaging Fish
    When your nitrite drops and you see green algae you can start to add scavanger fish such as algae eater, snails, shrimp and cory catfish.  These type of fish will help with keeping the aquarium clean of algae and uneaten fish food/waste.  Algae eating fish such as plecostomus can get very large so make sure you get the correct one for your size aquarium.  Bushynose Plecos, Clown Plecos, and Rubberlip Plecos stay small where as Marblehorn and standard plecos can get very large and outgrow your aquarium.  Ottocinclus as a small scavenging catfish that stay very small and can work on both alage and food debris.  They are also great for planted aquariums as some of the plecos can cause damage to plants.  Shrimp have become very popular for planted aquariums to not only can they be a great scavenger they are decorative and can come in some exotic colors.  
    *****Make sure and research the fish you are interested and make sure you get your tank ready for them before you add them. Certain fish need special water conditions and you are the one responsible for their care and health. Adding fish from the same part of the world and making sure to use a pH conditioner if needed.

  6. Schedule Monthly Water Changes
    Regular monthly water changes should be done from now on. Add Seachem Stability or Hagen Cycle to the new water you add to the aquarium to help feed your living bacteria to keep it strong and healthy.  For water change we typically suggest smaller water changes more frequently for example 10% water changes every 1-2 weeks keep water parameters more stable.  Some people will find that weekly is to hard to keep up with they are safe with doing 20% changes every 3-4 weeks.  For sure we recommend you do some % water change at least every 4-6 week.  The more often, and more consistent the better.  

You’ll find everything you need in our on-line store or stop into our Renton, Washington store.

Next, follow these Ten Easy Steps to Successful Freshwater Aquarium Installation to get your tank setup and ready for fish.

Saltwater/Reef EDU PAGES


Setting up a Saltwater Reef Aquariums
Saltwater enthusiasts have developed a love affair with coral reefs. There is nothing they love better then to design, stock, and maintain a saltwater aquarium that teams up with the natural beauty of coral.  For years only the most adventurous were brave enough to tackle the challenges proposed by a saltwater reef aquarium. Until recently coral reef was notoriously hard to maintain.  Times have changed.  Now there are several varieties of coral that even the most novice saltwater aquarium owner can enjoy. The key to successfully maintaining a saltwater reef aquarium is to have the proper set-up. 
The first thing you’ll need is a tank. If you have the space, select the largest possible tank that you feel comfortable with. The greater the size of your tank, the greater the water mass encompassing the reef, and the more you will be able to closely duplicate the effects of the ocean. If space is a concern, the advancement of “nano reefs” has grown tremendously over the past few years and continues to grow. You can choose either the classic look of a glass aquarium or you can select an acrylic tank which gives you a larger variety of shapes and styles. Acrylic tanks are typically more durable then glass tanks but are softer and can scratch. Both glass aquariums and acrylic aquarium have their advantages and disadvantages (see our article on glass vs. acrylic) so make sure you do your research and choose the best fit for your application.
Before adding coral to your tank make sure that the temperature of your water stays consistent. The temperature should remain at an ideal level of 73-77 degrees Fahrenheit but can go up to 80+deg as long as it is stable. Over 82deg your corals will begin to suffer so you must do all you can to exhaust the heat and get below 82deg. Your coral will remain healthier and have a better chance for survival in water that is always at the same temperature. 
It is very important that your reef aquarium be properly filtered. The three types of filters are mechanical, biological, and chemical.  A mechanical filter is a filter made out of spun nylon floss. Mechanical filter trap and remove wasteful material and prevent your chemical and biological filters from becoming clogged. There are several varieties of biological filters. The aquarium substrate or live sand is a part of the filtration system as is the live rock you use for your reef scape. The purpose of biological filters is to contain the biochemical
properties and to break down waste products. A chemical filter absorbs the ions of dissolved waste. Chemical filters are typically based
on active carbon or ion exchange resins that help purify the water.
Many reef saltwater aquarium owners like to use other products such as Bio-balls that act like a biological filter and Protein Skimmers that act as a form of chemical filtration to assist with their filtration system.
The PH level of a reef saltwater aquarium should hold steady above 8.2. Best levels are at 8.2-8.4.  Coral reefs require a filtration system that circulates water to and from the aquarium.  Moving water tends to be rich in oxygen and the currents can
help carry food or remove algae from the immobile coral. A submersible pump is used to carry water that has traveled through the filtration system back to the aquarium. We suggest having flow through the filter and a pump that turns your aquarium volume over a min of 4-6 times per hour. Internal water flow in the aquarium is a different story. We suggest a min of 10 times per hours of internal water movement and preferably 20-40 times per hour. That means if you have a 100 gallon aquarium then you want a return pump that provide between 400-600GPH of true water volume back to the aquarium. True water volume is accounting for the loss of flow you will get traveling through plumbing and head pressure that is against the pump. Using the same 100 gallon tank you would want at least
1000GPH of internal flow and upwards of 2000-4000GPH. A power head of wavemaker will do wonders to increase the water flow in a saltwater reef aquarium.
When you decide that it is time to stock your reef aquarium with fish you need to remember a few things.  Keep in mind that just because a variety of fish lives in the ocean does not mean that it’s compatible with coral in a reef tank. Some fish eat the invertebrates that make the coral reef their home. Some fish produce large amounts of waste that is too toxic to the coral. Some fish pick at the coral and cause damage to the tissue of the coral causing it to recede and possibly die. Remember when choosing fish for your reef make sure to pick “reef compatible” fish when stocking your aquarium it is very difficult to get them out afterwards, but not impossible.
Three of the most important variables of reefing and should be the main focus of all reef aquariums.
  • Water Chemistry- Keeping a stable environment is the single most important key to reef keeping. Temperature, PH, Salinity, Calcium, Alkalinity, Magnesium, Nitrates and Phosphates all play a hugely important roll in the health of any reef tank. (See our article on ideal reef parameters)
  • Water Flow- Provides good oxygen and gas exchange, removes nuscience algae form delicate corals, keep detritus suspended and allows for themechanical filtration to remove it, circulates food organisms to the corals,and provides a sort of exercise for fish to keep them constantly moving and grazing.
  • Lighting- Is needed for delicate nature of the photosynthetic corals and invertebrate. These corals utilize the light to produce their own food source or sugars for energy to grow.
 In conclusion, with the advancements in technology for the reef hobby it is not as hard as it once was to keep these delicate animals. Now a day’s reefers are not only able to keep corals, but they are able to make their tank thrive in captivity. Just make sure to have a sales associate get you set-up with the proper equipment. Understand what that set-up can achieve and what its limitations are. Lastly practice patience, reefs take a long time to mature and rushing it will only set the tank backing the long run.
Happy Reefing

Preparing for Your Reef Aquarium

Reef Basics

  1. A minimum of 1 lb of live rock per 2 gallons is recommended. With Live Rock the more the better but make sure to pack it loosely. Live Rock can only work as a good filter when water is able to pass freely through it. When you pack rock too tight you loose valuable “surface area” for your bacteria on the rock to work as a natural filter.
  2. 4-8 watts of light per gallon for corals and anemones, 1-3 watts for live rock and/or FOWLR(Fish Only with Live Rock) System. These figures have changed with the advancements of LED’s. The more important measurement used now is Photosynthetically Active Radiation or (PAR). PAR watts directly indicates how much light energy is available for plants or corals to use in photosynthesis. To maintain a healthy reef tank we suggest operating a minimum 125-150+ PAR in the tank and some corals can take well over 500+ PAR.
  3. A minimum of 5-6 time per hour of true water turnover of your aquarium through the filtration and a minimum of 10-20 times internal tank flow. For instance if you have a 100 gallon tank you want at least 500-600 GPH traveling trough your filter after plumbing, head pressure etc. We would also recommend at least 1000 GPH -2000 GPH of an additional tank flow achieved by wave makers or power heads. Remember this is a minimum we suggest and more is definitely better some 100 gallon tank will have over 15,000 GPGH of flow running through them.
  4. A crushed coral/aragonite sand substrate at least 1 to 2 inches deep, preferably sand but depends on your personal preferences. The healthiest of tanks we set up are all under 1.5-2 inches of sand.
  5. Maintenance of chemical levels:
  • Salinity 1.023 – 1.026
  • P.h. 8.3-8.4
  • Calcium 400-450
  • Alkalinity 3.5 – 5.0 meq/l or 7-13DKh
    As you introduce complex corals, you may need to supplement with:
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Strontium
  • Iodine
  • Trace elements
    At this point you then decide which methodology of filtration you wish to follow:
  • Natural mud method using sand or mud as a filter medium
  • Berlin method using mechanical filtration and a aggressive protein skimmer
  • Lee Eng natural method which uses both the natural mud and live plants plus a good quality protein skimmer

It is the opinion of the author that a combination of methods is the most stable, i.e.; the use of both a refugium and a protein skimmer, in conjunction with the live rock, sand, high flow, and high powered lights.

No matter which method you choose, it is considered paramount by all methods in a reef tank to use reverse osmosis or RO/DI filtered water. Tap water or well water contains undesirable chemicals like chlorine, copper, lead, arsenic, iron, phosphates, nitrates, and silicates. All of these chemicals stress the corals, fish, anemones and invertebrates, sometimes killing them. Plus it is our opinion that it is better to strip the water down of all organics and to be able to then control adding them back in through dosing units or calcium reactors.

Using Fresh Water Filters

  • It is very important to use pure, unpolluted fresh water to replace evaporated water, and to make the salt-water used for partial water exchanges. Using ordinary tap water invariably leads to algae outbreaks and issues with your reef and we do not recommend using tap water.
  • RO (Reverse Osmoses) filters are the cheapest in the long run, and they remove 90-95% (or more) of the contaminants from the water and strip down all the water of these organic materials. When you run your RO unit by itself you will typically get below 4 TDS (total dissolved solids) TDS is the ratio we use to determine how pure the water you are using is the lower the TDS number the better.
  • DI (De Ionization) filters become exhausted quite soon, and need frequent replacement. This makes this type of filtration quite expensive. DI units typically remove 99% of all contaminants when they are new.
  • We recommend to combine the two, first using RO and then DI. This results in the purest water up to 99.8% of all organic removal and will cut your TDS to 0-1.
  • One could also use a “hand held” water purifier, such as the household Britta filter. These units are actually small DI filters, and work when new but they get exhausted quickly and because of their small capacities they are quite expensive.

More Marine Aquarium Equipment You’ll Need

Heater: Work on using about 2 watts per gallon to raise the tank temperature 5 degrees F above the room temperature. (Thus for a 55 gal. tank you would need 300W to raise the temperature to 75 F if the surrounding temperature is 60F). It is our opinion that it is better to use two smaller heaters than one large one. If a smaller heater fails on, it is unlikely to boil your tank, and if it fails off the other heater can still supply some heat until you (hopefully) discover the problem.

Air Pump: This is not normally needed if you have adequate circulation. It is good to have a standby unit for an emergency, though. I also use mine to aerate freshly made salt water used for partial water exchange.

Thermometer: Get an accurate glass or electronic one – those little “stick on” types are not as accurate and can vary due to the thickness of the aquarium or using acrylic or glass.

Hydrometer: These are notoriously inaccurate. Get a good glass type, and make sure you know for which temperature it is calibrated.  Refractometers are the best at judging salinity or specfic gravity.  Refractometers use light to reflect against the gradient scale to tell you where the levels are at.  Make sure that the Refractometer has ATC (automatic temperature compensation) and that you calibrate them with fresh water as often as possible to avoid inaccurate tests.

Water Pump: Good water circulation is essential. Buy a good quality return pump (if you’re using a sump), and one or two additional power heads. A “surge” device or “wavemaker” is a good addition, but is not essential.

Live Rock: Get about 20% – 40% of the tank’s volume of live rock. This is essential for long term water stability and will help with natural foods sources for your fish, a more natural rockscape, and beneficial bacteria to help with filtration.

Sea Salt: There are many makes of salt, and not all of them are good. Read the package label, and ask questions before you buy it. You will not only need salt for the initial makeup, but also for regular partial water changes (about 10%-20% of water volume every 2-4 weeks, depending on stocking level, etc.).

“Incidentals”: You will need some test kits, additives such as buffer for calcium, ph, alkalinity, and magnesium. A fish net to net excessive debris or lost fish. Also some containers to mix your salt water and for helping to acclimate you fishes or other livestock.

Lighting will depend on the type of set-up:

  • “Fish Only” (FO) tank only needs enough light to view the fish comfortably.
  • If you use “Live Rock” (FOWLR) in your tank, then you should not have less than 1-2.0 W/gal (more is better).
  • “Soft” corals such as star polyps and mushrooms require about 3-4 W/gal (again, more would be better).
  • Hard corals, clams and anemones need a minimum of 6-8 W/gal, depending on the water depth.
  • Normal Output (NO) fluorescent lights are mostly used on FO or FOWLR systems, but can be used quite successfully on reef tanks as well, provided one has the space to accommodate all the tubes. As an example, I have kept a Carpet Anemone in my marginal reef tank for more than 8 months, using 8 x 40W NO tubes on my 55 gallon tank. (I have since upgraded lighting)
  • PC (Power Compact) fluorescent lamps are nearly as bright as Metal Halides, and are quite suitable to keep all types of marine animals in all but the deepest tanks. They are quite expensive, though, and not always obtainable.
  • VHO (Very High Output) fluorescent lamps are “old technology”, and are being superseded by the PC’s or MH’s, T-5 HO’s, or L.E.D.’s.
  • MH (Metal Halide) lamps are the brightest lamps available, and nearly equal the intensity
    of sunlight. They are probably the most suited type of lighting for deep tanks, and for “Reef’ type set-ups with light loving animals such as SPS corals, clams and anemones.
  • L.E.D. Lighting. New lighting technology is bringing about many new forms of L.E.D. lighting. While L.E.D.’s are more compact, produce less heat, and last longer than other forms of lighting, to date it is more expensive and in our opinion the long term effects of L.E.D. lighting are somewhat unproven. Advancements in technology of LED and pricing of LED have come a long way in the last few years, and we do see it becoming a great lighting option for all kinds of lighting circumstances.

Light “Color Temperature”
The light “color temperature” is also very important. Water “absorbs” the longer wavelength light (the red, orange and yellow color) at a shallower depth than the shorter wavelength light (green, blue and violet). If one descended from the surface of the ocean, the red light would disappear first, and the last light remaining at depth would be violet or actinic type lighting.

Sunlight at the waters surface has a color temperature of 6,500K. I don’t have exact figures, but I believe that the 10,000K light spectrum approximate a depth of around 10m (33′) below the surface, and the “bluer” 20,000K spectrum is equivalent of light at a depth of about 20m (66′).

Because *most* corals live closer to the surface, 10,000K light would actually be more natural for them than 20,000K light. If one were to set up a “deep water” tank, containing species living at greater depth than that of a “normal” shallow reef, one would be better off to use the 20,000K lamps.

Setting up a Marine Aquarium


Using Purified RO Water

  1. Add pre-rinsed sand or gravel into aquarium. Place thermometer above gravel.
  2. Add RO/DI (Purified Water) into a clean separate container. (Rubbermaid tub or trash can works great.)
  3. Set heater into container.- Wait 20 minutes
  4. Plug in heater, adjust temperature to 76-80`F, start water circulation in container using powerhead or power filter.
  5. Add synthetic sea salt, keep water circulating.- Wait 1 hour
  6. Adjust salinity in container to 1.020-1.025.
  7. Add pre-mixed saltwater. Adjust to correct salinity in aquarium. Mount heater to back of aquarium and turn it on.
  8. Turn on filtration system and allow water to clear.- Wait 24 hours
  9. Make sure tank is stabilized. Heat to correct temperature, salinity to correct levels, and filtration is working properly.
  10. Add first set of livestock and desirable live rock.* Sierra strongly recommends live rock and/or live sand for the beneficial bacteria and natural food sources it provides.
    ** Make sure that ammonia and nitrite tolerant fish are added initially.

Using Tap Water

  1. Add pre-rinsed sand or gravel into aquarium.
  2. Fill aquarium to 1-2 from the top of the tank.
  3. Place thermometer above gravel. Mount heater to back of aquarium.- Wait 20 minutes
  4. Install and start filtration system.
  5. Plug in the heater and adjust temperature to 76-80` F.
  6. Add synthetic sea salt. Adjust salinity to 1.020-1.025. (Pending type of aquarium reef or fish-only.)
  7. Allow tank to circulate.- Wait 24 hours
  8. Make sure tank is stabilized. Heat to correct temperature, salinity to correct levels, and filtration is working properly.
  9. Add first set of livestock and desirable live rock.* Sierra strongly recommends live rock and/or live sand for the beneficial bacteria and natural food sources it provides.
    ** Make sure that ammonia and nitrite tolerant fish are added initially.

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