Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #5

The #5 Mistake – Not Understanding Filtration

Mastering the ins and outs of filtration in aquatic systems can seem a daunting task for new owners, but we’re going to make it SO EASY!! To start out, there are three types of filtration going on in your fish system:

  • Mechanical (floss, sponges, pads) – These components remove particulate from your aquarium. They need to be cleaned regularly to maintain water flow rates throughout your aquarium.
  • Biological (bioballs, ceramic media, strapping, floss, sponges, media bed) – These provide housing for your good bacteria that keep your nitrogen cycle running smoothly. They need to be cleaned carefully so you do not remove too many of them.
  • Chemical (UV, carbon) – These components change the action of particulates in your water. UV lights kill algae and carbon will alter any chemical treatments added to your tank. UV light has NO EFFECT on bacteria or parasites living on your fish.

When you clean your tank, understanding what each part does will illustrate how to clean it. Mechanical filtration can be cleaned fairly thoroughly. Chemical filter components need to be replaced regularly for proper function. Biological filtration needs to be cleaned with old tank water and not until sparkling! 

Watch our video on how to properly clean your fish tank and media.

Combo Filters

These filters come with a combination of filtration types, usually sponges (mechanical/biological), carbon (chemical) and zeolite (chemical – ammonia scrubber). You do not have to use all of the components! Our office just uses the sponges; carbon is not necessary and an ammonia-scrubber isn’t needed for established, well-maintained systems.

Floss Cartridges

These are the most useless filters in the aquarium hobby. They are not meant to last and hemorrhage money. Switch them out for a sturdy sponge that you DO NOT need to replace every month. Only replace your filtration when it is about to fall apart.

Pressurized Filter

This is the most common type of filtration used on outdoor fish ponds. These units contain many small plastic beads used to house good bacteria for ammonia conversion. They need to be backwashed on a weekly basis to make sure the media is not compacted. Once compacted, these units need to be cracked open and cleaned.

To keep your fish happy and healthy, it is important that you do your maintenance regularly! Here’s a handy checklist to make sure you do everything on a regular basis: For Fish Tanks and For Koi Ponds

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How To Setup A New Fish Tank

How To Setup A New Fish Tank

Ready to get started? Join along with our Boo & Bubbles characters to see how to setup your new fish tank! Read through our check list to make sure you have everything you need to start!

Be sure to place you tank on a sturdy table, away from direct sunlight. A waterproof tablecloth can be used to protect any porous surfaces.
Setup your filter and add water to your tank. Try to pre-heat your water if you are adding tropical fish! Turn on your heater and use a thermometer to make sure it is working properly.
Add dechlorinator that treats chlorine AND chloramine to make tap water safe for fish. You DO NOT need to add any other water conditioners or bacterial starter.
Rinse ALL substrate decor thoroughly before adding it to your tank. If your water is cloudy after adding the substrate and decor, perform a >75% water change to remove the particulates. 
Allow your fish to float in their bag for 10-15 minutes, until the temperature in the bag and the surrounding water has equalized. If your fish has been in the bag for more than 2 hours, you will need to add a little tank water to the bag to help slowly adjust the pH. Add 1/4 cup of water every 5 minutes until the water volume in the bag has doubled.
Catch your fish out of their bag with a soft net. Transfer them to the tank and pull out the bag of water and throw it away. Do NOT dump it into the tank.
Watch your fish carefully for 10-15 minutes. Hiding is a normal behavior. Your fish may not be interested in eating their first day in a new tank. Offer a small amount and watch to see if they are interested. If your fish stops moving, test your water chemistry ASAP.

All new tanks run the risk of new tank syndrome. Hold off adding a lot of fish at once. Start with a small bioload and your tank won’t crash.

Now that your tank is all set up, you need to take good care of it! Check out our cleaning checklist here and read the step by step cleaning guide. You can also watch our How To Clean a Fish Tank video!

Rotting Eggs & Fish Don’t Mix

Rotting Eggs & Fish Don’t Mix

Have you ever been cleaning your pond, maybe pulling out dead plants, and smelled rotting eggs? This unfortunate smell is hydrogen sulfide, the product of anaerobic bacteria buried deep in the mud. Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to fish and can can death very quickly. Fish who are exposed suffer an increase in secondary infections from bacteria, parasites and fungi.

It is essential to remove your fish from the pond before undertaking any serious deep cleaning, especially into boggy areas with overgrown plants. Set aside a whole day to tackle your cleaning project and put your fish in a temporary tub with an airstone for the day. They will be fine for a few hours without filtration, but no more. Bring in extra help to make sure the project can be completed quickly. If you use a professional company to perform your cleanings, make sure they are aware of hydrogen sulfide and can provide the proper accommodations for your fish. Once all the plant material is removed, the pond must be drained to remove all hydrogen sulfide.

 

Troubleshooting Fish Systems

Troubleshooting Fish Systems

Many of the fish issues we see at Aquatic Veterinary Service condense down to one thing: ineffective husbandry. Most of the time, it is not the owners fault and they receive false information from many conflicting sources. Well, we’re here to set the record straight and make it easy to take care of your fish. The better care your fish receive, the better their overall health and fewer calls to the veterinarian!

Fish Troubleshoot #1: Test your water.

For those of your loyal followers, you know how important water quality is to fish health. Most of the issue we see would have been avoided completely if the water parameters had been maintained. Test kits are available for cheap and are very easy to run. At the first sign of distress: CHECK YOUR WATER!

Fish Troubleshoot #2: Water changes.

All fish systems need regular water changes. I don’t care what that internet forum told you. If you imagine the wild fish populations, their water is never stagnant or contained. It is constantly flowing in, out, up and around. Fish kept in ponds and tanks are in artificial systems. They require new water every once in awhile to flush out not only nitrogen products, but hormones and other waste that is impossible to see with the naked eye. Never done one before? Well, we’ve created a helpful guide to show you the way.

Fish Troubleshoot #3: Clean your damn tank.

Are fish low maintenance? Well, you don’t need to walk them or potty train them, but they do require regular care and maintenance. If you do a little bit weekly, it will make the whole process easier. A cleaning protocol should include: scrubbing walls, removing waste and excess food, rinsing filter media and cleaning decor. We have handy checklists for both ponds and tanks that you can tweak to create your perfect protocol.

Fish Troubleshoot #4: Temperature.

Fish are ectotherms. This means that unlike your fluffy mammalian pets, they cannot regulate their internal body temperature. Their body temperature, with the exception of larger ocean-dwelling fish, will be the same as the water temperature. Different species of fish have specific tolerances for temperature. Goldfish and koi, can survive in just above freezing temperatures all the way up to 90F! However, some tropical fish can only do 77-83F. Know your species temperature tolerance and make sure you have a good thermometer in the tank at all times. And stick on ones do not count!

Fish Troubleshoot #5: Diet.

Not all fish eat the same things! Commercial diets might seem all-inclusive, but these can be misleading. Some fish can be very picky eaters while others would eat your tires if given the opportunity. Research the diets of your fish and if you can’t find any conclusive information, try to offer variations including pellets, vegetables, fruit, bugs and frozen diets. Flakes are great for small fish, but graduate them to pellets as soon as possible. Pellets have less surface to mass ratio, meaning that all the nutrients won’t be leached out as soon as they hit the water! Many food packages are labeled with an expiration date, but this applies only if you don’t open the bag. As soon as a bag or jar is opened, you must toss the remainder after 6 months. After 6 months, a lot of the vitamin content has broken down, so you’re essentially feeding cardboard.

Fish Troubleshoot #6: Personality clashes.

Just like people, cats and dogs, not all fish will get along with each other. Usually, this comes down to species territoriality, but we see it result in fighting over food, space and mates, often resulting in injury and death. When setting up a tank, always make sure the fish you’d like to home together will get along or have enough room to feel safe. If aggression develops over time, you will need to rehome the bullied or the bullier. Unfortunately, there is no effective behavioral therapy for fish… yet.

Stick to these key points and your fish will be happy and healthy for years to come!