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Fish Care & Breeding Guide

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Your Fish Care & Breeding Guide

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Aquarium Size

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I recently answered a question on Yahoo Answers involving the appropriate aquarium size for fish. The asker challenged the 1 inch per gallon rule stating that it would be sheer stupidity to try to keep a 10 inch Oscar in a 10 gallon aquarium. The Oscar probably wouldn’t even have room to turn around. He was, of course, correct in his observation.

There are actually two “Rules of Thumb” concerning fish and aquarium size. The first is 1 gallon of aquarium for every 1 inch of fish.  This rule applies to smaller fish species. You can easily keep 8 or even 10 neon tetras in a ten gallon aquarium. Ten tetras take up less room, generate substantially less waist and consume less oxygen than a single 10 inch Oscar.

The second rule of thumb applies to larger species. It is 5 gallons of aquarium for every inch of fish. Accordingly, you would require a MINIMUM tank size of 50 gallons to accommodate a 10 inch Oscar. Note the word MINIMUM is capitalized. You will require a minimum of half that much space again for each additional fish in a community tank. So two 10 inch Oscars would need a minimum tank size of 75 gallons. These rules can be applied unilaterally in the aquarium world. They pertain to everything from cold water goldfish and freshwater tropical fish to saltwater species. These rules should be applied to the potential adult size of an individual species and not its size at the time of purchase. When in doubt, it is always best to error on the side of caution. Bigger is Better.

It should be noted that these parameters are based on routine partial water changes and regular testing of your water conditions, especially in a saltwater tank or marine reef application. While over stocking can prove potentially devastating to your tank's population, poor water conditions can be deadly. 

      









     

       
       

     

Aquarium Cycling

The days of filling a new aquarium up with tap water and slapping a bunch of fish in it are over. What began as a practice among saltwater aficionados quickly spread to the freshwater aquarium community. Cycling your aquarium is an essential factor in establishing the balanced ecosystem you need to keep your fish alive and healthy. Cycling an aquarium is, in essence, duplicating the same aquatic nitrogen cycle that exists in nature.

There are two types of beneficial bacteria involved in starting your aquarium’s nitrogen cycle. The first is Nitrosomonas, commonly referred to as a nitrifier. Nitrifiers ingest ammonia, a highly toxic chemical compound produced by fish waste. They then expel nitrite which is also toxic but not as lethal as ammonia. The second bacterium involved in the nitrogen cycle is Nitrospira. Nitrospira consume nitrites and excretes nitrates. Nitrates are much less toxic and easily manageable in a home aquarium. Nitrate levels can be kept in check with the use of an aquarium filter and routine partial water changes.

Traditional methods of cycling involved the systematic introduction of fish to a new aquarium. The initial fish is a tester fish, or guinea pig of sorts. The waste they produce initiates the nitrogen cycle. Each additional fish generates a higher bacteria count until you have established an ecosystem capable of sustaining an entire population.

Newer techniques center around “fishless cycling.” One way to do this is to borrow an existing bacteria culture from an established aquarium to jumpstart the nitrogen cycle in your new aquarium.  Gravel and aquarium filters are teaming with bacteria and make an excellent donor for initiating a nitrogen cycle. Bacterial additives for jumpstarting an aquarium’s nitrogen cycle are also available at most fish stores.

Despite fishless cycling, most saltwater and marine reef aquarium owners still use a tester fish before adding more sensitive or expensive specimens to their aquarium. While this may seem cruel in theory, in practice it can mean saving the lives of an entire community tank not to mention what could be a huge monetary investment. 

      




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Drip Acclimating Your Fish


Drip acclimating saltwater fish and marine reef species is essential to reduce metabolic stress levels from the transition of one environment to another. Simply floating your fish is not conducive to the acclimation process. It is also advisable to drip acclimate rather than float your freshwater fish. A drip system is easy to set up and doesn’t require anything more than simple aquarium air tubing. We have provided a drip acclimation video produced by Doctors Foster and Grant in our fish care and breeding guides to show you exactly how to properly introduce your fish to your aquarium.

Fish Compatibility 

The same food chain that exists in nature is present on a smaller scale in a home aquarium. Fish invariably fit into one of two categories in the food chain; predator or prey. Even though aquarium fish are “fed” rather than having to forage or hunt for their survival, the natural order of things is still in effect. Compatibility is never to be ignored when stocking an aquarium. Fish range in temperament from aggressive and predatory to docile and timid. Some fish are so aggressive that they should be delegated to mono-species aquariums only. Many saltwater and freshwater species will exhibit territorial behavior in the presence of conspecifics. Still other species are shoaling fish. Shoaling fish are highly social in nature and function best in groups. The communal instinct in some shoaling fish runs so strong that they will perish in the absence of other members of their species. Species compatibility and temperament are covered for each fish in both our Tropical Freshwater & Saltwater Marine Reef Care and Breeding Guides.

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Brackish Fish 

Most varieties of fish are strictly saltwater or freshwater species. There are, however, fish that frequently inhabit brackish water. Brackish water is found where rivers and streams empty out into bodies of saltwater. Lagoons, bays and estuaries are examples of brackish water ways. The popular freshwater tropical fish, the molly, is one such species. Mollies can be successfully acclimated to either a freshwater or saltwater aquarium.  Although it is recommended to add a small amount of aquarium salt to your tank when keeping mollies in a freshwater environment provided it is not detrimental to the other inhabitants of your aquarium. Another brackish species is seahorses. Seahorses frequently inhabit shallow water areas of bays and lagoons. They can function quite fine in salinity levels too low for many saltwater species. Yet another example of a fish that can survive in both fresh and salt water is the shovelnose shark. These fish are technically a saltwater species but they have been found as far inland as 1,000 miles in both the Mississippi and Amazon River Basins. This transition from saltwater to freshwater would kill most fish. 

Captive Breeding

Spawning in freshwater aquariums is quite commonplace. Breeding saltwater fish is an entirely different matter. In recent decades the aquarium trade industry has turned to tank breeding species to supply the needs of home aquarists. Some saltwater species take readily to spawning in aquariums. Breeding gobies and seahorses for commercial purposes has meant with much success. Unfortunately, when it comes to saltwater species breeding in captivity, gobies and seahorses are the exception to the rule. The confines of an aquarium do not seem conducive to breeding in the saltwater kingdom. Attempts at captive breeding have failed with most saltwater species. This is why a mated, breeding pair of saltwater fish commands such a high price in the aquarium world. Both our Tropical Freshwater and Saltwater Fish Care and Breeding Guides contain the most recent information on each fish’s breeding habits in captivity.

      









     

       
       

     
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