Category Archives: Fish Guide

Fish Ick (Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis; White Spot Disease) Heat Treatment; Medication; and Prevention

Fish ick is the most common cause of fish deaths to diseases.  Its full name is Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.  Many people simply call it ick, or ich. Some others call it fish white spot disease because the most identifiable trait of ick is white spots on the fish.

Ich is highly contagious.  One fish infected with ick will be more than likely to containment the whole tank.  If we do nothing, all fish in the same tank will eventually die.

What is Ick (ich)?

Ick is an external parasite in the water.  It uses fish as hosts.  They feed on the bodily fluids and the flesh of the fish.  One of the major symptoms is white spots on the fish.  It is why some people call it Fish White Spot Disease.

Fish ick is a parasite.  Once it infects a fish, you can see white spots on the fish.

 

Fish Ick has three stages in its life cycle

Free-Swimming ick – Tomites

When fish ick parasites are free-swimming, they are tomites.  The ick tomites are too small to see with naked eyes.  They will keep swimming in the water in an attempt to find a host fish.

In the wild, there is so much water.  Most free-swimming ick parasites might never find a host fish.  In a closed system such as a fish tank, all of them they will more than likely find their targets.

Ick Attached to the fish – Theront

Once the free-swimming tomites find a host fish, they will attach themselves to it. They will form a hard shell around themselves and turn into a cyst.  Fish’s immune response will also attempt to wall off the ick parasite as it is a foreign object.  It will make the cyst grow thicker.  Eventually, the cyst becomes visible to our eyes.  It is when we see the white spots on fish, and it is the only stage we can notice the existence of ick parasites.

When there are a lot of ick parasites attached to the fish, the infected fish might look like full of tiny white lumps, or full of salt.

In this stage, the ich parasites live on the bodily fluids of fish.  It causes the fish extreme discomfort.  Think about mosquito bites to us.  It is very itchy.  We can often see fish scratch against objects in the fish tank because they have no hands.

In this stage, ick parasite is immune to most treatment. Because the cyst protects it and the fish skin wall around it.  On the other hand, no amount of scratch by fish will get rid of it.

Dormant Ick – trophont

When the ick parasites in the stage of Theront become mature, they will bust out of the cyst and fall to the bottom of the fish tank.  In this stage, they are trophont or trophozoite.

The trophont lay dormant at the bottom of the fish tank.  It is the reproduction period.   In the trophont, ick will keep multiplying.  It won’t be long before the trophonts release hundreds of free-swimming tomites and continue their life cycle.

How did fish die to ick?

Secondary Infection

Fish often do not die to ich parasites directly.  The itchy caused by the ick parasites will usually result in fish scratching against objects.  As a result, some fish might injure themselves.  The open wounds of fish will produce the opportunity for bacterial infection.  The secondary infect is what kills the fish most often during an ick outbreak.

Suffocation

Another scenario is when the ick parasites attached to the fish’s gills.  The gills to fish is like lungs to us.  When the ick parasites damage the gill too much, the fish will have a hard time to breath and suffocate.

Fish Ich Treatment

During the three stages of ick parasites, they are the most invulnerable as theronts in the cyst.  The best time window for treatment is when they are free-swimming tomites.

There are a lot of fish ick medications on the market that can kill the ick in their free-swimming stage.  Some are more effective than others. Many ick medications can be hard to the fish or even kill them.  Some meds can damage the good bacteria colony in the filtration to interfere with the aquarium nitrogen cycle.  Some others can kill the shrimp, snail, scaleless fish, as well as the aquatic plants in the fish tank.

So before we begin on selecting any fish ick medication, we need to look at alternatives.

The Fish Ich Heat Treatment

Fish Ick Hates Warm Water

One natural weakness of the ick parasite is the high temperature.  Most strains of ick parasites will stop reproduction in warm water temperature.  Let’s take advantage of it.

To start the fish ick heat treatment, we must first have an adjustable aquarium heater.

Raise the Water Temperature to 86F+

The process of heat treatment is quite simple.  Just turn up the aquarium heater slowly.  Let the temperature raise 2F each hour until it reaches 86F.

While the average life cycle of ick parasite can last 3 to 6 weeks, they will live for only a week or two at most under high water temperature.  In the water of 86F+, ick life cycle will speed up significantly.  At the same time, they can’t reproduce when it is too warm.  By the time the ick parasites matures and fall off the fish without any offspring, it is the end of the cycle.  There will be no more free-swimming ick tomites to start it over.

Fish Ick Heat Treatment Takes Time

To make the heat treatment work, it must last at least ten days or more.  Ideally, continue the heat treatment for another week after no more sign of white spots.  During the heat treatment, you might also want to use a gravel vacuum to clean the bottom of the fish tank extensively.  It will remove a lot of ick trophont which will further reduce the number of ick parasites in the fish tank.

Only the rare strain of ick parasites can reproduce in 86F+ water temperature.  In most circumstances, the heat treatment should work and stop the ick in total two weeks.

Fish Ick Medications

If somehow you are so unlucky and got the rare ick strain, you might want to fall back to the medication treatment.  Some mild but effective ick meds are

Fish Ich Treatment with Medications

Kordon Rid Ick Plus

Formally known as Rid Ick+.  Rid Ich Plus uses formaldehyde and malachite green in its ingredient.  It is effective against external parasites like ick.  It will not affect biological filtration when following the instructions.

Hikari Ick-X

Ick-X is a fish medicine from Hikari. Specialized in dealing with various external parasites such as ick, velvet.

SeaChem Paraguard

Paraguard is a broad medication from SeaChem.  It is relatively easy on the fish, as well as on the filtration.  It can treat many fish bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic diseases.  SeaChem recommends to use it for all new fish just to make sure.  They also recommend removing invertebrates like shrimp and snails.  Scaleless fish might also be sensitive to it.

SeaChem MetroPlex

Formally known as Metronidazole.  SeaChem changed the name of their Metronidazole product to MetroPlex.  Like with all their products, they added “Plex” to it.  MetroPlex has 70% metronidazole.  Metronidazole is an antibiotic and antiprotozoal.  It can treat some bacterial infection as well as parasites.  Product direction says it is not safe for invertebrates.  So if you have snails and shrimp, do not use it or remove them before using.

SeaChem Cupramine

Cupramine is one of the stronger medications because it is a copper based product.  Like all copper-based product, it will kill all shrimp and snails.  On the other hand, it is highly effective against all external parasites.

Fritz CopperSafe

CopperSafe is another proven working copper-based ick medication. Once again, do not use it in the tank with shrimp and snails.  It is hard on the fish as well as the plants and filtration.  CopperSafe is not so safe, but it gets the job done.

Some medications will also wipe out the good bacteria in the filtration system and thus cause ammonia/nitrite spike.  Use fish medication only as the last solution.  Start with something mild.

Only Use one single medication at a time

Some medications are not compatible.  Unless the manufacturer specified, do not use any two of them together at the same time.

Remove Activated Carbon

If you have activated carbon in your filter system, you must remove it during the treatment.  Activated carbon is known to absorb medications.  You can return it to the filter after the treatment.  It will help eliminate the leftover medicines in the water.

Since the ick parasites are only vulnerable in their free-swimming stage, speed up their life cycle can have them reach free-swimming stage quicker.  As a result, it shortens the time required for the treatment.  Raise the water temperature speed up ick life cycle considerably.  So combine the heat treatment and with a mild medication can be the fastest cure to fish ick.

Treat the entire tank if there is the sign of ick

If somehow you are unlucky enough to bring home ick, you need to treat the whole tank instead of just the fish you saw with white spots.  There is no telling if a fish has white spots under its gills.  Better safe than sorry.  Or the ick parasites will come back just as you think you have eradicated it.

Fish Ick Prevention

Contrary to popular belief, ick parasites do not appear out of thin air, or water for that matter.  A lot of people believe ich exist in all water sources.  It is false.  You either have ick parasites in your fish tank, or you do not.  If there is ick, you will see the white spots within a few weeks because of the life cycle of ick.  The same thing goes the other way around.  If you do not see any white spots in several weeks, there is no ick at all.

If you have a tank of ick-free fish, they will never get ick until you bring the parasites to the tank somehow.  It is why the prevention is critical.

Only Bring Home Fish From a Clean Source

To prevent ick get into your fish tank, you must be careful about every new fish you bring home.  When you buy new fish, make sure there is no white spot on any fish in the store.  Most fish stores have centralized filtration system connected to all tanks.  A single fish with the sign of ick is highly likely to have other fish infected as well.  Staff in the pet stores are also likely to use the same toolset for fish tank maintenance, which increases the chance for cross-contamination.  Avoid buying fish from any of these tanks if you see a single white spot on a single fish.  Otherwise, you are gambling your luck.

Use a Quarantine Tank

As mentioned earlier, ick parasites can attach themselves to the fish gills.  In this case, white spots are hiding from our view.  To make sure a new fish is parasite free, you need a quarantine tank for it.  It should take no more than two weeks for any white spot to appear on the outside of the fish if there is ick.  If not, then the fish is truly ick-free.  You must also have a separate set of gravel vacuum and fishnet for the quarantine tank to prevent the cross-contamination.

Never let the water from another tank into yours

When you introduce new fish, shrimp, snail, aquatic plants, or even decorations into your aquarium, make sure you do not let the water come with them into your tank.  It might contain free-swimming ick tomits, or dormant trophont.  Ditch the water from other sources.  Wash the plants and decoration, and even your hands if you plan to make contact with the water in your fish tank.

Fish Ick prevention is just important as the ich treatment.  If you prevent ick from getting into your fish tank, you do not have to deal with it.

Enhance Fish Overall Health

Some people believe a healthy fish immune system can prevent fish from getting ick.  It is false.  Just like a healthy person will not stop mosquito bites.  Fish ick parasites are external. Thus their ability to attaching to fish does not change whether or not the fish is healthy.  A healthy and strong immune system will not help fish from getting ick.  No fish is safe from ick as long as it is already in the tank.  It is just the matter of luck which fish get the most parasites.

However, with a healthy immune system, the healthy fish will have much better chance to not die of the secondary infection.  As a result, the healthy fish will more likely to survive an ick outbreak if a treatment is underway.  Likewise, if the fish is weak, its chance of survival is less than ideal.  During the ick treatment, it is essential to keep the aquarium water quality high and give the fish a high-quality diet without overfeeding.

New Fish Acclimation in 3 Easy Steps

Fish acclimation is the process to give fish enough time to adapt to a new environment through incremental changes.  If acclimated well, most fish can adapt to the water in any new fish tank without a problem.

Acclimation is mandatory when you bring home any new fish.  It is because fish can die rather quickly when there is a big difference in water parameters.

A sudden change in the water temperature, PH, hardness, dissolved oxygen level, and even nitrate concentration might stress, shock, or even kill the new fish.  It is one of the top reasons a lot of new fish died soon after they got home.

The keyword here is “sudden.”  Most fish can adapt to more gradual changes.  It must be incremental, and we must give the fish plenty of time to get used to it.

Before Start Acclimating Fish

You must have a full setup of an aquarium with all the essential equipment in place.  The water temperature must be right.  It must have aquarium water conditioner in it if the source of water is from a tap.  The aquarium filter must be fully cycled for aquarium nitrogen cycle.  Otherwise, you are not ready to bring fish home just yet.  If you ignore the advice, your fish will still die even if you acclimate them.

If you have a lot of fish in your home aquarium already, it is highly recommended to settle the new fish in a quarantine tank instead of your main tank.  Countless contagious fish diseases and parasites are out there.  You do not want any of it in your established aquarium.  You can skip the quarantine tank if you have no fish in the fish tank.  The whole idea is to separate the new fish from the fish you already have.

Tools for Fish acclimation

To acclimate fish to a new fish tank, we will need to keep the fish in the plastic bag they came in with.  Ideally, a plastic fish container works better since we can hang it on the side of a fish tank.

New Fish Acclimation in a fish container hanging on the side of the fish tank.
We also need a large fishnet for the final moving.

A water bucket will come in handy as well.

Fish Tank Water Temperature Before Fish Acclimation

Even as fish can adapt to a wide range of water parameters, the water temperature should not too far off from their natural habitat.  Make sure the water temperature in the fish tank is within the acceptable zone for the particular fish species.  Adjust the aquarium heater accordingly to get the ideal temperature before you get started with the acclimation.

Three Steps for Fish Acclimation

  • Fish acclimation for water temperature

The water in your home aquarium might have very different temperature compared to the water in the plastic bag the fish came in with.  Water temperature difference is the first thing the fish must get used to.

Therefore, the first thing we must do is to set the plastic fish bag in the fish tank for around 20 minutes.  If you have the fish container, dump the fish and the water from the plastic bag into the container.  Then hang the fish container on the inside of the tank.  Make sure at least half of the fish container is in the fish tank water.  It is important not to let the water from the plastic bag come in contact with the fish tank water.

After 15 to 20 minutes, the water temperature in the plastic container should be around the same as the water in the fish tank.

A lot of fish beginners know this step, as the fish stores often recommend this part.  However, most fish stores only recommend this step and no further.  It is crucial to know that the water temperature is not the only thing the fish must adapt to before we set them free in the tank.

  • Fish acclimation for other water parameters (PH, hardness, nitration concentration, etc.)

After the water temperature is similar, the next thing to do is to replace around 25% of the water from the fish container with the water from the fish tank.  Do not let any water from the container into the fish tank.  Discard it.  It is when the water bucket comes in.

Wait for another 20 minutes for the fish to get used to the changes in water.

Then replace another 25% of the water in the fish container with the water from the fish tank.

Repeat the same process every 20 minutes.  Until almost all of the water in the fish container is from the fish tank.  It can take two to three hours in total.

Alternatively, after the first hour of 3x 25% replacements, you may increase the replaced water to 50% every 20 minutes.  Since the first a few changes in the water parameter had the biggest impact, it is essential to keep the percentage changed small.  The later changes can be up to 50% each time without a problem, and it will speed up the acclimation process.

If you are replacing 25% water every 20 minutes all the way, it can take 3 hours to finish.

If you use the alternative method, you can finish it in 2 hours.

For more sensitive fish, you might want to stick to the first method for a more gradual and longer acclimation process.

By the end of the 2~3 hours, the fish should have already adapted to the new water parameter in the fish tank.  They are ready to settle in.

  • Move the fish into the fish tank.

Take a large fishnet and hold it directly above the water bucket.  Dump everything from the fish container into the fishnet.  The water will go through the fishnet into the bucket, while the fish will all be in the fishnet.  Take some water from the fish tank with the fish container or any other clean water container.  Use the water from the tank to wash the fish in the fishnet by dumping them on the fish from close distance over the bucket.  This step must be quick.  Or the fish can’t hold their breath any longer.

Once it is complete, take the fishnet to the fish tank and put it in the water.  Let the fish swim out of the fishnet on their own.

Observe the fish after the acclamation

Some fish might be weak due to inadequate care at the fish farms, or the stress from the transportation.  Even if you have done everything right, there is still the possibility a few new fish might not make it.  It is the best to keep eyes on the new fish after they have settled in.  So you will notice it right away if there is anything out of the ordinary.  Do not rush to feed them just yet.  Give them 24 hours to get used to the new home before a small feeding.  New fish might be nervous in a new fish tank.  Especially after the transportation and the fish acclimation process.  They will most likely ignore the fish food if you feed them too soon.  Uneaten food will be a waste and pollution in the water.

12 Tips to Keep Aquarium Fish Healthy

To keep aquarium fish healthy, we must provide them the right environment, an excellent diet, and a healthy lifestyle.  It is easy to achieve if you know what you are doing.

First, an excellent environment for the aquarium fish includes both natural environment and social environment.

An excellent natural environment is Crucial to Keep Fish Healthy

Since aquarium fish lives in a fish tank, we must make it the most comfortable place for the fish.  An excellent natural environment in a fish tank at the very least includes enough swimming room, clean water, ideal temperature.

  1.  Enough Swimming Room

It is essential to get a fish tank of ideal size.  Since many years ago, there is the saying that you need a fish tank with a minimal length of 7 times the fish size.  Yes, it is a bare minimum. So if you have a 2” long fish, you need a 14” long fish tank as the bottom line.  It is hard to imagine having a 10” long fish in a 12” long fish tank.  It won’t be able to turn around freely.  The more swimming room, the more comfortable it is to the fish.

When a fish tank is too small, not only the fish do not have enough room to swim, but the water parameters can also be unstable.  As a general rule of thumb, we need no less than a 5-gallon fish tank for stable water conditions.  The detailed requirement is up to the size of the fish.  Under the condition of the minimum gallon and minimum length are both met, the bigger tank is always better

2.  An excellent location for the fish tank

Location of the fish tank is essential for the well-being of the fish.  It must avoid high light, high traffic, high noise, places to avoid stressing the fish.  It should also keep a distance from air conditioning, radiator, fireplaces, or anything that can affect the water temperature dramatically.

3.  High water quality

Since fish lives in the water, we must keep the water quality high.  First, we need a good aquarium water conditioner to keep chlorine and chloramine at bay.  The aquarium must be fully cycled.  It must have a filtration system doing 24/7 aquarium nitrogen cycle.  There must be absolutely 0ppm of both ammonia and nitrite.  While nitrate is fine at 40ppm, it is the lower, the better.  You need a water test kit to make sure all readings are accurate.  A liquid test kit is a lot more accurate than a paper strip test kit.

Other things like water PH and hardness are less critical, as long as you give the fish time to adapt when first introduced to the tank

4.  Ideal water temperature

Every fish species have a comfort zone when it comes to water temperature.  Research well on the individual fish species you plan to have.  Make sure you have an aquarium heater if you have tropical fish.  A stand-alone thermometer is necessary to get a more accurate reading of the water temperature.  Adjust the heater accordingly to let the fish have the temperature it feels the most comfortable with.

5.  Stable water parameters

Water temperature, PH, hardness, and other chemical makeups must not fluctuate.  Fish do not like sudden, large changes because it can shock and even cause them to die.  It goes back to the very first point – a big enough fish tank.  If the fish tank is big enough, it is less likely to have sudden swings in these readings.

You also must do a regular partial water change to keep the water stable.  The percentage of water you replace each time should not be larger than 70%.   Ideally, it is 30~50% once every week.

If you have not done a partial water change for many weeks or even months, it is likely to cause a sudden massive swing in the water chemistry when you finally get to do it.  So it is crucial to keep the partial water change small but frequent.

6.  Hiden places

Some fish species are relatively shy.  They need some hiding places for them retreat to in the case of danger. It might seem to be pointless since there is no predator in a fish tank.  Without hiding places, they might become stressed.  It is just their natural behavior.  Stressed fish won’t be healthy fish.

To provide them with ideal hiding places, you may place some decorations in the aquarium.  It can be some artificial caves, tree logs, fake or live plants, a castle, or anything the fish can hide inside or behind.  The hiding places will just make them feel safer.

A healthy, balanced diet without overfeeding is essential for fish health

7. Just like us, fish need proper nutrition to be healthy.

It is more than just to get a premium fish food.  A proper diet for fish should include at least one high-quality staple food for every day feeding.  It can be a premium pellets or flakes from a reputable fish food manufacturer. With occasional nutrition treats such as bloodworm, brine shrimp, krill, no more than once or twice a week.  Some supplement such as VitaChem and Garlic Guard can also be beneficial for pre-soaking the dry food before the feeding.

More ideally, you may rotate more than just one type of premium staple food for a more balanced nutrition intake.  Different brand of fish food uses different ingredients

8. Do not overfeed fish.

Overfeeding fish is the cause of many issues in the fish aquariums.  Overeating can directly kill the fish with digestive problems.  It may also cause water pollution which can be unhealthy and deadly to the fish.

In the art of feeding fish, the less, the better.  While there is no proof of health benefit to the aquarium fish, skip a day or two of feeding once a week is totally fine.

A harmony social environment is essential to Fish Health

If you have a community fish tank with more than just one fish, make sure the social environment is ideal in there.  Some fish species do not like each other.  Others might require companions.

9.  Avoid having fish who are aggressive toward each other

Some fish species are naturally aggressive toward each other.  For example, two betta fish can’t be in the same fish tank.  They will most likely attack each other to cause stress, injuries, and even deaths.  Most Gouramis are in the same situation.  Avoid any aggression in a fish tank can prevent many problems  Research well on fish compatibility before decide on what fish to get.

10.  Make the group big for schooling fish.

There are also a lot of schooling fish in the aquarium trade.  Most species of tetra, Rasboras, corydoras, etc. are the common schooling fish in home aquariums.  Typical schooling fish need at least 5~6 in a group to do well.  Any less of them, they might become stressed and shy.  They might also easily get scared if anything happens.  Provide them the number they need, not only you can avoid stressing them, but they can even show more of their natural behaviors.  It is a win-win.  The bigger the group, the better it is for the schooling fish.

11.  Do not overstock your fish tank

Do not overstock the fish tank with too many inhabitants.  Too many fish can mean less swimming room.  As a result, it can also create stress for the fish even if your filtration system is sufficient for the aquarium nitrogen cycle.  More often, too many fish might result in ammonia and nitrite spike.

Physical Activity Can Enhance Fish Health and Prolong Their Lifespan

12.  Workout will make fish healthy

Just like us, physical activity can keep the fish in top shape.  Provide some slow water current in the fish tank.  It will make the fish doing slow workouts all the time.  Or you may provide stronger water flow on limited time every so often.  It can, in fact, make fish healthier and live longer.

For example, betta fish have a natural life expectancy of 2~3 years.  Some aquarium hobbyists reported 5~7 years lifespan for betta fish when they provided water current in the betta tank multiple times a week.  However, please use your common sense in this matter.  Betta is a slow moving fish with longfin.  It will be tiresome for them to swim in strong current 24/7.  If the current is very strong, keep the time short.

The workout comes natural for schooling fish, as they like to chase each other around the tank.

The state of fish health is not from any single factor

It is an easy task to keep the aquarium fish healthy if you know what to do.  However, no single solution can achieve the goal on its own.  Meet all their basic needs is crucial.   The rest are bonuses.  They will thank you for it by showing their best colors and natural behaviors.

 

 

6 Tips For Aquarium Snail Control Without Chemicals

Aquarium snail control is a problem a lot of fish hobbyists might have encountered.   At first, you might notice only one or two tiny snails in your fish tank.  You have no idea where they come from.  Before you know it, they multiply like crazy and overrun the entire aquarium with hundreds.  What are they? How did it happen?

What are these pest snails?

In most cases, they are pond snails.  There are also other species of aquatic snails can become the little pest in your aquarium.  We will stick with pond snail today as it is the most cases.  The same snail control methods apply to all of them.

Pond snails are hermaphrodites.  It means they do not have separated sex.  Each one of them has both male and female reproductive organs.  Any two of them can mate, and both will lay dozens of eggs each time.  Then the dozens offspring will grow up quickly, and all of them can mate with each other to lay even more eggs.  It is how their population explode so quickly.

How did they get in the fish aquarium?

Many aquarium hobbyists have introduced these uninvited guests to their fish aquarium unintentionally.  The eggs of pond snail are quite tiny and hard to notice.  They might have come into the fish tanks from the water came with the fish.  Sometimes the aquatic plants, decoration you bought have snail eggs attached.  It is one of the reasons why it is the best to ditch all the water came with the fish.  Do not let a drop into the home aquarium.  We must also wash the aquatic plants and decorations thoroughly with running water before putting them to use.  It is highly recommended to use a quarantine tank first.

How to stop the pest snails

1. Stop Overfeeding Fish will Slow the Population Growth of Pond Snails

To be honest, when you have a pond snail infestation, you must have an overfeeding problem.  Even if you think you are not feeding your fish too much food, there must be a surplus somehow.  While pond snails are not picky eaters, they will multiply the fastest when there is a surplus of fish food available.  In the wild, they mostly eat algae.  When there is more nutritious fish food available, they will be all over it.

Reduce feeding fish will limit the food source available to the pond snails.  Without a surplus of fish food, their population growth will slow or stall.

To make sure you are not overfeeding your fish, you need only to feed them once a day with no more food than they can finish within a minute.  Immediately remove all leftover fish food you can see right after the feeding.  You can quickly remove all floating uneaten fish food with a fishnet A gravel vacuum is excellent for removing the fish food at the bottom.

If the pond snail problem is severe, you may want to skip on feeding fish for a few days.  No harm will come to the fish.  They will be perfectly fine without food for even weeks.

Reduce feeding might not be a solution in case there are bottom feeders.  I have both corydoras catfish and Otocinclus catfish in my community tank.  As a result, I have to give them sinking algae wafer, or they might starve.  The pond snails were taking advantage of the bottom feeder foods.  When it was dinner time for the corydoras catfish and Otocinclus catfish, it was also a buffet for the pond snails.  They would come from all directions to converging on the algae wafer.  So they always had plenty of food thanks to the bottom feeders.  Do your best not to give too much food to even the bottom feeders.  Make sure they finish the meal in less than an hour.  Ideally, aim for 30 minutes or less.  Remove the remaining food with a gravel vacuum as soon as the bottom feeders no longer show any interest

2.  Keep the Aquarium Algae Free will Further Cut off the Food Source for Pond Snails

Algae on the surface of objects in the water are the natural food source for pond snails.  When there is no more surplus fish food for them, they will fall back to their second favorite food.  Keep the aquarium algae free is important to cut off the backup food source for the pest snails.  Therefore, algae control will help the aquarium snail control.

For algae control in a home aquarium, you may want to limit the light exposure to your fish tank.  Reduce feeding fish will help.  More frequently partial water change can also remove the nutrients the algae need to grow.

And finally, you may want to use an algae scraper to physically remove the algae on the side of the fish tank.  Wash all the decoration under tap water to remove the algae from them.

3.  Physical Removal of the Pond Snails can directly Reduce Their Numbers

You can, of course, use your hand to physically remove the pond snails one at a time from your fish tanks.  It is the simplest way to reduce what you can see.  However, I have been through this during my newbie year of fish keeping.  I could remove 50+ pond snails manually with my hands every day without noticing a decreasing in their population.  It goes back to the earlier point of reducing their food source.  If you do not limit the available food to them, they will multiply quicker than you can remove them.  Physical removal works only if their growth has stalled, or if their number is still small.

You may also use a piece of vegetable to set a trap.  Anything from a piece of lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, can all work the wonder.  Just cut a piece of veggie with large surface and place it at the bottom of the fish tank.  In a few hours, you will see a high concentration of pond snails on the vegetable.  Remove the whole piece of veggie will remove dozens of them each time.  Repeat the process, and you should see a decrease in pond snail population.  It is undoubtedly more efficient than removing them one at a time by hand.

Since the pond snails reproduce by laying eggs, we can also remove some of the eggs during aquarium maintenance.  When we do a partial water change, extensive vacuuming will also remove the snail eggs.  Removed water can reduce free floating snail eggs.  We can wash the decorations under running water to get rid of the snail eggs attached to them.  Filter media might also contain some of the snail eggs took in by the filter system.  Wash the filter media gently by using aquarium water conditioner treated water or old tank water.  Do not use untreated tap water to avoid damaging the good bacteria colony.

4.  Introduce Natural Predators for Aquarium Snail Control.

There are some natural predators you can introduce to your fish aquarium to help with the pond snail control.  Assassin snail is on my top list.

 The following is a video of Assassin Snail in action.  

The Assassin Snails have separate male and female.  And they only lay a few eggs each time.  It means they might not even reproduce in your fish aquarium unless there are both male and female available.  If they do breed, the number is manageable due to their slow reproduction.  It is important to know they will not become a pest themselves in the long run.  All you need is a few of them.  Around 3 to 6 of Assassin snails will be just fine for pond snail control.  Each of them will eat at least one pond snail per day.  It might not seem much at first.  But the number adds up quickly.   For each one pond snail consumed, you have prevented all of the potential offsprings.

As a plus, the assassin snails are beautiful creatures themselves.  A great addition to your home aquarium.  Once the pond snails are all gone, they can adapt to other diets easily.  Any bottom feeder fish food and even algae can sustain them.  They will also eat meaty food like bloodworm.


 

Assassin snails are also harmless to everything else.  They will not harm the fish, nor shrimp, nor any other larger species of aquatic snails you intentionally placed in your aquarium.  They ignored my Zebra Nerite Snails completely which is a larger, beautiful aquatic snail species for algae control.

There are other natural predators of pond snails including crown loach, pufferfish, convict cichlid.  These are fish.  So they have much higher bioload than the small assassin snails.  Do not overstock your fish tank just for snail control.  You might also want to check fish compatibility issue.  Some of the fish might not be friendly to others.  Unless you want these fish in the first place, it is a much better choice to get the assassin snails instead.

However, if you have a large community aquarium with the extra room for more inhabitants.  Having multiple aquatic species eat snails in the same fish tank will double and triple the effort.

5.  Stay Away From Chemicals when it Comes to Aquarium Snail Control

There are some pest snail killing chemical products available for aquarium use.  Stay away from them.  Since they can kill the pest snails, they can indeed kill pet snails, shrimp, and scaleless fish.  The meds can also be harmful to other fish and live plants in your fish tank.  So let’s stick with the natural snail control solutions just to be safe.

6.  Aquarium Snail Control Require Patience and Consistency

There is no single solution to the pest snail problem if you can already see hundreds of them.  You might need to do all the recommended methods at the same time.  And it takes a while to put a stop to the little pests.

You must also be very patient.  It won’t be over until it is over.  My pond snail infestation did not seem to end at first.  The fact I had to feed the bottom feeders made it worse.  I was taking out dozens and dozens of them each day.  And I have added six assassin snails in the tank. I saw first hand how an assassin snail ate a pond snail.  It was amazing.  More and more empty shells of pond snail started to appear at the bottom of the fish tank.  However, a general view of the fish tank did not seem to have solved the problem.  There were still hundreds of pond snails in my sight.

Then, all the sudden the snails are noticeably getting fewer and fewer.  Eventually, there was no more pond snail in my fish tank.  Not a single one left.

So you see, as long as you keep doing the right things, aquarium snail control will eventually work.   It just takes time for the natural methods to take effect.

How to Clean a Fish Tank in 10 Steps (Aquarium Maintenance Tips)

Clean a fish tank should take place on a weekly basis to keep it nice and the fish healthy. Without regular aquarium maintenance, a fish tank will slowly become a mess both visibly and invisibly.

To understand why a fish tank needs regular maintenance, we must first know what is happening in a fish tank.

Fish eat fish food, and they produce fish poop. As a result, there will be toxic ammonia created as all the organic waste is breaking down. Thanks to the aquarium nitrogen cycle, the toxic ammonia will end up in the form of harmless nitrate.

While nitrate is non-toxic, it can still affect the fish’s immune system in high concentration. If we do not clean a fish tank for a long time, the nitrate concentration will be at unhealthy level. Fish will be vulnerable to diseases when their immune system gets weaker. It is what people refer to as the Old Tank Syndrome. As a general rule of thumb, it is the best to keep nitrate concentration under 40ppm. The lower, the better.

As a result of more and more fish poop pile up at the bottom, the rotting organic matter will build up. Sometimes when there is too much fish poop, not even the established aquarium nitrogen cycle can keep the ammonia at bay. As a result, you might get ammonia and nitrite spike in your aquarium. Both can kill the fish since they are toxic.

Furthermore, nitrate is a nitrogen compound. It is a food source for algae. Algae will start to grow everywhere if nitrate is not in check. You might even see the water turn green.
The production of nitrate is also acidic. It will slowly eat away at the water buffer. As a result, the water PH might crash (sudden large drop). Fish do not sudden large change in anything. It can shock and even kill them.

To prevent the mess from happening, we strongly recommend doing regular aquarium maintenance once a week. It is mainly to reduce the nitrate and other organic waste. It also for removing fish poop, cleaning the mineral deposit, and stop algae from building up. As well as to restore the water buffer to prevent the water become too acidic.

Now we know why we need to fish tank maintenance regularly. The next step is how to do it. As a part of maintenance, we need to do a 30~50% partial water change once a week as the main task. Any higher percentage might shock the fish; any lower amount might not be sufficient.

Everything about how to clean a fish tank can be narrowed down to the following ten steps

  1. Prepare for Aquarium maintenance

To clean a fish tank, we must prepare everything forehand.

As a minimum, we need at least two buckets. A gravel vacuum. An algae scraper. A water conditioner.

Since there will be a water change, we need to prepare the clean water. Just use the tap water. And the fresh water should be in one of the buckets.

Make sure the new water temperature is very close to the old water in the fish tank. Or the fish might get in shock after the water change due to the sudden temperature drop. By very close, I mean no more than 3~5F in temperature difference. The less, the better.

Just let the new water sit in the bucket under room temperature for at least 24 hours. If the room temperature is too cold, use an aquarium heater to heat it up. Do not boil the water as it will deplete the oxygen in it.

The new water also must have aquarium water conditioner in it to neutralize chlorine and chloramine before use.

  1. Turn everything electrical off

There are several pieces of electrical equipment in a fish aquarium. At the very least, there are the aquarium filter and the aquarium heater. When dealing with electrical stuff in the water, there is always the possibility of electricity leak. Better be safe. We should unplug them all before proceeding. The air pump can also be off. It will only serve as a distraction during the maintenance.

  1. Clean the sides of the fish tank with an algae scraper

An algae scraper is easy to use. It can peel off all the buildups on the glass, including algae, mineral deposits, and organic buildup.

Do it slowly, and gently. Too large movements too quickly might scare the fish and put them under stress. There could be water spill as well if you are not careful.

  1. Remove 30~50% water from the fish tank.

You may remove 30~50% the water from the aquarium by using a gravel vacuum to pull the water into an empty bucket.
While you are at it, use the gravel vacuum to suck up as much debris as you can from the bottom of the fish tank. All the fish poop, leftover fish food (should not be any if you do not overfeed), and anything unwanted should go in the bucket along with the removed water.

  1. Clean the equipment and decoration (optional)

If you see buildups on the aquarium filter, heater, thermometer, and decorations, you might want to clean them too. You can wash everything under the tap water except for the filter media.

Most of the good bacteria colonies are on the filter media. We must not damage the bacteria colonies to maintain the aquarium nitrogen cycle. Or we will get ammonia and nitrite spike.  Tap water contains disinfect agents like chlorine and chloramine. Both might kill some of the bacteria. To prevent it from happening, we can wash the filter media in the just removed old tank water in the bucket. Gently squeeze the filter media or just wash off the debris if you have solid filter media.

Important: The good bacteria in filter media are aquatic. They can only survive in the water. Make sure the filter media stay wet. Do not let it leave water for more than a few minutes.

Return everything to the fish tank. After clean all the equipment and decorations, you may put them back to where they were.

  1. Add the prepared clean water to the fish tank

Slowly add the fresh water back into the fish tank. You can directly dump it from the water bucket. Do it slowly, not to make a mess of the substrate, or scare the fish.

You can also use the intake of a filter system if you have an external filter such as canister filter. The intake of a canister filter system can suck the water into the fish tank from the bucket. It makes the water change easier and less disturbing to the fish.

  1. Clean the fish tank wall on the outside

After all the earlier steps, there might be a little water on the outside of the aquarium. Use a piece of cloth or paper towel to wipe it. While you are at it, might as well clean off any fingerprint or dust mark. If you do not wipe off the water right now, it might leave a watermark later.

  1. Turn everything back on

After you are sure you won’t need your hands in the water again, you can plug in everything. The aquarium filter, the heater, and the air pump all should be back to work.

  1. Observe the aquarium to double check everything

Now everything is complete. You must continue to observe for at least a few minutes to make sure everything is alright. First, check to see if all the electrical equipment is working properly. Then check out the water temperature to see if it is close enough to what you wanted. Finally, pay attention to the behavior of the fish to see if there is anything out of the ordinary. If there is a problem, you’d want to notice it sooner than later.

  1. Dump the old tank water and wash the gravel vacuum and algae scraper

Now you can dump the old tank water from the bucket. Throw it down the toilet, or use it for watering the garden.  It has nitrate which makes an excellent fertilizer for the plants.

Wash the bucket. You may fill the other bucket again to prepare the new water for the next water change.

You might also want to wash all the cleaning tools as well. Including the gravel vacuum and the algae scraper.  Because it will be harder to clean once they are dry.

Make aquarium maintenance a routine

Finally, clean a fish tank does not take more than 15~20 minutes each time.  Therefore, doing it on a weekly basis is easy and it should become a habit. You may do it twice or even more often each week to keep the water at higher quality if you wish. Any less frequently might cause the buildup of algae and organic waste. Personally, I prefer doing it once a week. Too often means more work.  By doing weekly aquarium maintenance, you can keep your fish tank clean, and your fish healthy.

 

11 Tips for Aquarium Algae Control without Chemicals

Aquarium algae control is a problem for almost everyone who has a fish tank.  Algae is a single cell plant organism exist in almost all water sources.  It is hard to eradicate.  A single algae cell will multiply quickly if the condition is right.

To do well in aquarium algae control, we must first understand how they grow.

Algae is a plant.  Like all plants, algae need water, nutrients, and adequate lighting to survive.  The primary nutrients the algae require to grow is nitrogen compound such as nitrate and ammonia.  Also, it needs phosphate and trace minerals.

If we can eliminate or reduce one or more needs of the algae, then we can certainly keep algae under control in an aquarium.

The following is a list of the things we can do to for aquarium algae control.

  1. Limit the Light Exposure to the Fish Tank

Fish do not require lights to survive.  Algae do.

Like all plant-based life forms, algae must have long time exposure to the lights to produce their food source through photosynthesis.

By reducing the time of light exposure, algae will starve and thus take a hit on their ability to multiply.

To limit the light exposure, we can do the following.

First, we must not place the fish tank near a window, or anywhere it can get direct sunlight and daylight.

Second, it is the best to find the darkest corner of your home for the aquarium.

Third, get an automatic timer for the aquarium lights.  Set it to turn on the lights for no more than 8~10 hours each day.  The shorter, the better.

When you already have an algae problem, you might want to keep the aquarium lights off for an extended period.  No side effect to the fish.  Plenty of hurt to the algae.

  1. Reduce feeding the fish

Fish food will convert to ammonia one way or another.   Leftover fish food will rot in the fish tank to produce excessive ammonia and phosphate.  The fish food swallowed by fish will also create the same thing after fish digest and poop it out.

Therefore, less fish food means less ammonia and phosphate in the fish tank water.

Sounds easy, right?  Not so fast.  Majority of the fish hobbyists are overfeeding their fish.  You only need to feed the fish once a day, with no more food than they can finish in a minute or less.  Remove all excessive fish food you can still see at the end of each feeding.  Reduce the quantity the next feeding to make sure there will be no more leftover by the end of one minute.

If algae problem is already presence, you might want to skip feeding for a day or two, or even three.   Once again, it won’t hurt the fish at all.

  1. Get a premium fish food

Not all fish food is the same.  Some fish food has plenty of useless ingredients in there as filler.  Switching to a premium fish food will reduce fish poop because it has less filler.  As a result, less pollution in the fish tank.

Also, getting a premium fish food will also benefit the fish health and colors greatly.

  1. Reduce the number of fish

Fish produce ammonia.  More fish in the tank means more ammonia produced.  As a result, heavily stocked fish tanks are more easily to get the algae problem than lightly stocked fish tanks.

We recommend not to overstock your fish tank.  If you already have too many fish, reduce the number of fish will improve water quality.  It will limit the algae growth.

  1. More frequent partial water changes

Aquarium nitrogen cycle converts ammonia to nitrate on a constant basis.  As a result, nitrate builds up continuously in a well-established aquarium.  If you do not do partial water changes for a long time, the nitrate concentration will become too high.  You would be asking for algae.

Doing partial water change will remove a lot of the nitrate every time.  A partial water change can also directly reduce the algae spores in the aquarium water.  We recommend weekly partial water change of 30~50% as a standard procedure of aquarium maintenance.

When you have an algae problem, you may increase both the frequency and the percentage of water change.  You may change up to 70% of the water for each water change.  And you can do it once a day, several days in a row just to massively reduce the nitrate concentration along with the phosphate present in the water.

  1. Physically remove algae

We just mentioned partial water change.  It could reduce the free-floating algae in the water.  However, it is not enough.  Many species of algae will grow on the surface area in the fish tank.  We can see the side of fish tank turn green.  Same goes for the decoration.  Sometimes there is hair like string algae attached to objects inside the fish tank.

In this case, just pull out the “hair” algae by hands.  No need to be polite.  It is the quickest way to remove string algae from a fish tank.

Scrap off the surface algae from the side of the fish tank by using an algae scraper.  You may also take out decorations to wash them under the tap.  It can be done during every aquarium maintenance as a part of the routine.

  1. Time the lights to switch off in the middle of the day

As a low life form, some species of algae might have a hard time to switch photosynthesis on and off quickly.  We can take advantage of it by switch the aquarium lights on and off multiple times a day.  For example, if you may turn the lights on at 8 am, then turn it off at noon for one hour, then turn it on for four more hours before turn it off.  Once again, an automatic timer can come in handy.  Plants will not be affected.

  1. Increase the water circulation

Algae has free floating spores everywhere in the water.  The algae species that grow on the surface area of objects will have an easier time to settle down in still water.  If your aquarium has good water circulation throughout the tank, it will be harder for the algae to grow on the surface.

Strong aquarium filters provide good water flow.

You may also increase the water flow in the fish tank by adjusting the position of your filter system.  Or add a powerhead.

  1. Increase aeration

Algae need CO2 for photosynthesis.  Increase the aeration to increase the oxygen level in the water will deplete the CO2 for algae growth.

The fastest aeration in a fish tank comes from surface water movement.  We can increase surface water movement by adding an air stone or two.  You will need an air pump for it to work.

This method only makes sense if you do not have aquatic plants.

  1. Get some natural algae eaters for aquarium algae control

Algae eater is a broad name.  There are many species of fish will more or less eat some algae.  Do not fall for the name “algae eater,” since they might not even be the right species for the job.  The real top algae eating fish are Otocinclus catfish, Twig catfish, Siamese algae eater, Bristlenose Plecos, Mollies.

Make sure you get the right fish for your aquarium.  Some of them such as Pleco can be very big when fully grown.  Otocinclus catfish require a school of at least 6 or more to do well.  Or they will become very shy and hide all the time.

Other than fish, many species of aquarium shrimp and snail are great at eating algae as well.  Amongst freshwater shrimp, the best algae eater is Amano shrimp.  Some smaller shrimp species such as red cherry shrimp, crystal red shrimp, will also chew on algae for food.

Amongst the algae eating snails, my favorite is Zebra Nerite Snail.  They are not only good at eating algae, but they are also an excellent addition to any freshwater aquarium for their appearance.  They even will never breed in freshwater.  So there is no possibility of overpopulation.


Ramshorn snails are also great for eating algae.  You might like their appearance too since their flesh is reddish.

Do not 100% count on algae eaters for aquarium algae control in your fish tank.  They will help significantly, but not eliminate the problem if you do not do the other things to keep algae in check.

  1. Get live aquatic plants

Live plants will go after the same nutrients required by the algae.  As a higher life form, live plants will outcompete algae if you provide them with what they need.  Adequate lighting, and CO2.  Most aquatic plants require more intense lighting than algae need.  Provide high wattage lights will help the plants.  The co2 injection will also make a huge difference in letting the plants win.

One more thing,

No chemical algae remover, please!

Keep in mind that we do not recommend to use any chemical product for algae control in a fish tank.  Anything that is not natural might be harmful to the fish and kill the aquatic plants.  Combat the problem naturally is the best way to win the war on algae without any casualty.

There is no single solution to the algae problem.  We can never hope to completely eradicate the algae since they exist even in the tap water.  However, we can keep it at bay if we starve it out by reducing what it needs, introducing natural predators and competitors.

Good luck with the aquarium algae control!

Top 11 Premium Fish Food and Supplement Known to Enhance Fish Colors

Fish food is commercially available everywhere.  However, they are not created equal.  Some fish foods are superior to others.  The quality of fish food does make a huge difference to the colors and overall health of the aquarium fish.  We will discuss a list of the best fish food, and the reasons why they are better.

Check the fish food label for ingredients

Different fish food has different ingredients.  The same as the food items consumed by humans, the fish food ingredients are listed in the order from the highest percentage to the lowest.

A lot of fish foods have “fish meal” as the first ingredient.  Under most circumstances, fish meal is mostly leftover of fish parts.  E.g.,  fish skin, fish organs.  It is what’s left after the best parts removed for human consumption.  Fish meal is in the fish food because it Is cheap.

A high-quality fish food always has the word “whole” in the first ingredient.  For example, whole salmon, whole shrimp, and whole krill.  As the word suggests, “whole salmon” is the whole of a salmon fish.  It is far superior to fish meal in term of nutritional value.   Same goes for other whole seafood in the ingredients.

Simply put, please check the label for ingredients when buying fish food.  In most cases, stay away from anything start with “fish meal.”  Nod and smile when you see “whole” in it.

Besides the “whole” vs. “meal” part, there is also a long list of other ingredients in every fish food.

Make sure the wheat flour and other filler are at the very bottom of the list.  As a filler, wheat flour offers no nutritional value for most species of fish.  Manufacturers use wheat flour to make the fish food stick together as flakes or pellets.  However, overuse it will low the nutritional value of the fish food.   Too much wheat flour can also create fine dust when the fish food breaks apart.  It will pollute the water more easily.

The following is a list of the best fish food made from “whole” seafood.

  1. Omega One Flakes

Omega One is one of the best brands of premium fish food.  They make multiple version of flakes which are all the same with only minor differences.  There is Omega One Freshwater Flakes; Omega One Garlic Marine Flakes; Omega One Super Color Flakes; Omega One Veggie Kelp Flakes.

They all have “whole” salmon in the flakes as the top ingredient.   Salmon is one of the best seafood in term of its nutrition.   It is also known to enhance the color of the fish.  Many fish owners have reported their fish show better colors after consuming Omega One flakes as a staple for a month or two.

2. New Life Spectrum Pellets

New Life Spectrum pellets is another one of my favorite premium fish food.  They use whole krill as the first ingredient.  Krill is easy to digest.  It is also known to enhance fish colors.  They are one of the natural food for fish in the wild.  While krill often appear in many fish foods, New Life Spectrum has it “whole” which is hard to find.

As pellets, it can be a staple food for daily feeding.  NLS pellets have 3mm, 1mm, 0.5mm versions.   You may choose any size according to the size of your fish.

3. Omega One Freeze Dried Bloodworms.

Bloodworm is the larvae of midge flies.  In the wild, they are the natural food source for both fish and birds.  While in nutrient they are about the same as mosquito larva, they are better at enhancing fish colors.

Since bloodworm is a meaty food, we do not recommend feeding it to the fish on a daily basis.  One or twice a week as an occasional treat will be enough to bring out the color of your fish.

4. Omega One Freeze Dried Brine Shrimp

Brine Shrimp is another very good food for fish.  Many aquarium fish hobbyists hatch fresh brine shrimp from eggs to feed their fish fry.  Since not everyone has the time and energy to hatch the live brine shrimp, the freeze-dried alternative is easy to use.  The freeze-dried version of brine shrimp sticks together in bigger chunks.  So they are better for adult fish.

5. Hikari Freeze Dried Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp from Hikari is just as good as Omega One.

6.  Hikari Freeze Dried Bloodworm

Hikari also has a freeze-dried bloodworm product.  Same as other bloodworm products, only feed the fish once or twice weekly as treats.

7. Omega One Shrimp Pellets

The shrimp pellets from Omega One has “whole” shrimp in it as the main ingredient.  Shrimp is another natural food for many fish in the wild.  High in protein, and great for color enhancement.  These pellets are big.  You need to either crush them into smaller pieces or use them for bottom feeders only.

8. Ocean Nutrition Dried Seaweeds

Ocean Nutrition makes Dried Seaweed.  It is one of the better foods for the herbivore.  Even carnivore fish can use some veggies in their diet to have more balanced nutrition.  Seaweed is another natural color enhancement food for fish.  This product contains just seaweed and a little garlic extract.

9. Hikari Algae Wafer

Hikari Algae Wafer does not have “whole” fish in their ingredient.  However, the disc-shaped wafer is for the herbivore bottom feeders.  My corydoras catfish go crazy over them.   Even middle-level fish will sometimes nip at it.

Use the Hikari Algae Wafer only if you have bottom feeders in your fish tank.  It makes a great staple food for them.

10.  Garlic Guard

SeaChem Garlic Guard is a garlic extract for aquarium fish.  Garlic is known to enhance the immune system in mammals.  At the same time, they have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property.  While it has not been proven the same effects work on the aquarium fish, my years of using it for my fish make me believe it at least have contributed to the overall health of my fish.  The anti-bacterial and anti-fungal property must have helped the entire aquarium system stay healthy.

I use Garlic Guard to pre-soak dried fish food before feeding them to the fish.  Any flakes, pellets, freeze-dried bloodworm, brine shrimp, can all use some garlic flavor.  ?

11.  VitaChem

Vitachem is a multi-vitamin supplement made for aquarium fish.   Like us, fish require many vitamins to stay healthy.  VitaChem has almost every vitamin included.

You may use it to pre-soak any dried fish food before feeding to fish.  You may also add a few drops in the aquarium water according to the instruction.

There might be other high-quality fish food on the market.  New products come into existence all the time.   Check the label for ingredients; you can tell the good fish food from not so good ones right away.

Provide your fish with the best fish food available will contribute to optimal health for them.  Only then you can bring out the best out of your fish, including enhanced colors and their natural behaviors.

Provide fish more than just one food.  Offer them a variety

To optimize fish health and colors, we highly recommend using at least one high-quality staple fish food for daily feeding.  Any of the premium flakes and pellets make a great staple food.

Rotating multiple different brands of high-quality fish food can have the benefit of ensuring the fish get a more balanced diet.

High protein meaty food such as bloodworm should be used only as treats.  The treats should be used in the place of staple food instead of using them together to avoid overfeeding.  The supplements such as Garlic Guard and VItaChem can be used every day to soak all the dried foods.

While the fish food might last for a long time on the shelf, they will start to degrade once you have opened the seal.  Keep them in the fridge is a good idea the process.

Frozen fish food is the best

If you have the budget, and extra room in the freezer, you might want to get the frozen food instead of the freeze-dried version.  Frozen bloodworm, krill, shrimp, brine shrimp, etc. are all the best treats you can get for your fish.  They are even better than the live version since the frozen food has no risk of parasites.  It cost more to get them.  They require staying in a freezer the whole time.  However, it is ok to use the freeze-dried alternative.  They are the next best thing.

10 Reasons Why You Should Not Overfeed The Fish

Overfeeding fish is one of the most common mistakes contributing to a lot of aquarium problems including the death of fish. We must avoid it at all cost to have healthy and happy fish.

Aquarium fish hobbyists love their fish. Although, most fish species are not very interactive with humans. Feeding them is one of the few scenarios where interaction is taking place. Sometimes it is just hard to resist the temptation to feed them again, and again, on the same day. It is a big mistake.

The following is a list of the reasons why overfeeding fish is bad.

1. Fish do not need as much food as humans
Most humans have three meals a day. We need the extra energy to keep our body temperature at constant. Fish has no such need. They only require very little food to sustain themselves. Three meals a day would be overkill for creatures like fish. They can also go hungry for three weeks or more without a problem. Just like humans, eating more than they need can be unhealthy, and it is the least worries here.

2. Fish has a stomach the size of their eyes
It might be a generalization, but most of the fish species have a tiny stomach. It is as small as their eyes. While a fish stomach can stretch, it is the best not to stretch it too much to avoid stress and digestion problems.

3. Fish often do not know when to stop when it comes to feeding
In the wild, fish do not have the leisure always to have food on time. Sometimes they might not find any food for days. As a result, they will eat as much as they can when food is available.

In captivity, most of us feed our fish on a daily basis. There is no risk of starvation. Fish do not know that. They will often eat as much food as we provide them until they are too full.

4. Commercially available fish foods will expand once wet. Fish can die directly from overeating

Unlike the natural food, items fish find in their habitat, the commercial fish food is mostly dry food. Dry food will expand once they are wet. Pellets will grow the most. They often do not have the time to expand to the fullest before the fish swallow them whole. Once in the fish’s stomach, the fish food will continue to expand.

If a fish overeats dry food until it can’t handle it anymore; it will die once the food expands in the stomach.

Yep, I have to repeat it. Fish will die to overfeed due to indigestion.

5. Overfeeding the fish will cause pollution in the water
When you put too much fish food in the fish tank, it means more pollution whether or not the fish eat them all. Leftover fish food will rot at the bottom of the fish tank. It will create the toxic ammonia. Even the ingested food will turn into fish poop. Decomposing fish poop will also produce more toxic ammonia. Since we know about Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle, more ammonia is bad in an aquarium.  As a result, overfeeding fish can kill the fish with ammonia poisoning.

6. Overfeeding can result in an explosive algae growth
Algae feed on nitrogen compound such as ammonia and nitrate, as well as phosphate. The decomposing leftover fish foods and fish poop will produce a lot of all three. In a constantly overfed aquarium, the likelihood of an algae boom is much higher. It will make the fish tank unattractive to look at, and increase the workload for aquarium maintenance.

7. Overfeeding fish might cause the water smell bad
One of the questions I see often is “why my fish tank smells so bad.” Well, it is most likely the result of overfeeding. When leftover fish food and fish poop rots in the water, of course, it will stink.

8. Overfeeding fish might cause cloudy water
The ammonia production goes through the roof as a result of overfeeding. The good bacteria in the aquarium will attempt to grow in number to balance it. As the bacteria booming, you might see cloudy water in the tank. It makes the fish tank look dirty.

9. Overfeeding fish might result in pest snail boom
Some tiny pest snails can come into our aquarium through eggs in the water. They multiply fast when there is plenty of food. Cut back on feeding is the number one thing we should do when the population of pest snail is exploding. No food means population stall.

10. Overfeeding fish will cost you more on fish food

A lot of fish food manufacturers say on the label to feed the fish three times a day. Feed them as much as they can eat in three to five minutes. That is way too much. Their intention is clear. To have you go through your bottle of fish food sooner. So more money for them when you have to buy more fish food.

Apparently, the cost of fish food will go up when you overfeed the fish all the time. Cutting back on feeding will save you money on the fish food.

As we can see, we can avoid a lot of the aquarium problems by not to overfeed the fish.

So how much should we feed our fish before it is overfeeding?

First, make sure you take the fish food out by using your fingers. Never dump the fish food directly into the fish tank. Nor place the fish food on the top of the fish tank to avoid accidentally falling.

Second, we only need to feed the fish once a day. A pitch full of food is more than enough for a small aquarium. We need to figure out the exact quantity through trials and error since it is related to the number and size of the fish. Just watch the fish carefully during the feeding. If they can finish everything within a minute or less, then you are right on the target. Reduce the quantity if it takes a lot longer for them to eat. Reduce it further if there is leftover.

Third, for dry fish food such as pellets, it is a good idea to pre-soak them first before the feeding. They will expand to their fullest before fish swallow them. As a result, it avoids expanding in the fish’s stomach.  I usually pre-soak the dry fish food with Garlic Guard and VItaChem.  Not only they do the job of soaking the food just fine, but they are also great supplement to make fish healthier.

What if I have already overfed fish?

If somehow you have overfed your fish, you must remove all leftover fish food immediately to avoid water pollution. Use a fishnet to take out the floating fish food. Use a gravel vacuum to remove the remaining fish food at the bottom of the fish tank. Not only you must reduce the quantity for the next feeding, but you might also want to skip a feeding or two. Fish will be fine. Some people even routinely doing a day of fasting each week for the fish. While personally, I see no benefit for the fish, skipping a feeding will reduce the water pollution.

A natural way to take care of the leftover fish food at the bottom of the fish tank

Even when we are not overfeeding, sometimes it is hard to avoid having fish foods sink to the bottom of the fish tank. Most fish will ignore the food once it hit bottom. In this case, get some bottom feeders such as corydoras catfish if your fish tank big enough with extra room. These bottom feeder fish will only eat the food at the bottom. They are good cleaners for the leftover fish food. Some aquarium keepers even call them “model citizens” in a community tank. Just make sure we must not overfeed even if we have bottom feeders. With bottom feeders, we can allow sinking food to stay at the bottom a little longer before removing them.

5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Quarantine Tank

A quarantine tank is referring to a secondary fish tank for isolating sick or potentially diseased fish away from the main aquarium/show tank. We highly recommend all the more serious aquarium fish hobbyists to have one.

What is a Quarantine Tank?
A quarantine tank is a fish tank for isolating certain aquarium fish from the rest of the fish. It is about preventing or stopping the spreading of diseases and parasites.

There are several good reasons why you should have a quarantine tank if you are a serious long-term fish lover

1. A quarantine tank can stop a potential outbreak of fish diseases and parasites in your main aquarium/show tank.

There are many fish diseases, and parasites are widely spreading in aquarium fish trade. Many of them are contagious and deadly. Everyone who has kept fish for quite a while must have encountered them at some point. The fact most of the fish stores have a centralized filter system for all their fish tanks is making the situation worse. Every new fish they get might catch something.

Every time we bring a new fish home, it is potentially infected. A single fish carries contagious disease or parasite will contaminate the whole tank. Without proper treatment, the aquarium can suffer heavy fish losses. Since it cost us money, time, and effort to set up a well-established aquarium, it would be terrible if we lose most if not all of the fish.

Fish diseases and parasites have various stages. An infected fish might not show any symptom when we just bought it. By the time the sign is showing, it might be too late. The outbreak has already started.

Under normal circumstances, it takes minimal two weeks for any symptom of parasites and diseases to show on a fish.

That is when a quarantine tank comes in handy. We recommend putting all new fish in a quarantine tank for at least two weeks. Prolong it to 3~4 weeks just to make sure they are free of diseases and parasites if you have the patience.

2. No need to treat the whole tank in the case only the new fish is sick.

A few weeks after you have isolated the new fish in the quarantine tank, the new fish can go to the main tank if it is healthy. If not, you only need to treat the new fish in the quarantine tank instead of having to put every healthy fish in the main tank through the treatment. Some treatment can be harsh on the fish.

3. Lessen the cost of treatment

A lot of treatment for fish relays on medications. Most of the fish meds require a specific ratio of the water in the fish tank. Treating the main fish tank can be costly since it is usually not small.

A much smaller quarantine tank does not need as many meds to reach the same concentration. As a result, it saves money on the fish medications.

4. A quarantine tank is not just for the new fish

Fish do not have to catch contagious diseases or parasites to become sick. Sometimes they might develop certain sickness on their own. In this case, a quarantine tank can become a hospital tank for the sick fish. Whether or not they need treatment, you do not have to worry about putting the main tank through any possible trouble. Return the sick fish to the main aquarium after it is healthy again.

5. A quarantine tank can also act as a breeding tank at the time of need.

For the aquarium fish hobbyists who are interested in breeding the fish, an extra fish tank can always come in handy.

Most fish breeding will fail in the main aquarium because other fish will eat their eggs and the fry. Let the breeding fish have their breeding tank will solve the problem.

So now we know all the good things about having a quarantine tank for the aquarium fish.

How do we set up a quarantine tank?

We need some of the usual gears. But only the most basic ones. The idea of a quarantine tank is that it is makeshift. Keep it simple and cheap.

A fish tank – Unless you have some huge fish, just get a small fish tank for it. The minimum 5-gallon recommendation applies here too.

A filter – You will need a filter as with for all fish tanks. A sponge filter will be perfect. It is the cheapest and easy to maintenance.

A heater – A cheap low wattage, a non-adjustable heater will be just fine.

An air pump might not be necessary if you have a Y valve or T valve with extra air tubing to share with the same air pump for multiple fish tanks.

Separate Maintenance gears – You also need a different set of gravel vacuum, algae scraper, fishnet, and buckets for the partial water change. In case there is indeed something contagious, you do not want it to spread to the other fish tanks.

There is no need for gravel or decoration since it is only a temporary home for the fish. Once again, just keep it simple and low cost unless you want to turn it into a mini show tank. No need for a canopy, since it is not cheap. I have used a piece of foam from a hardware store to cover up the top of the tank to prevent fish from jumping out. The air pump powered sponge filter will pump fresh air into the fish tank, so there is no worry about the ventilation.

One more thing, you can use the sponge filter in the main tank alongside its primary filter system to keep it cycled. Do not return it to the main tank from the quarantine tank unless you are sure there is nothing contagious. With the sponge filter kept cycled in the main tank, you may take down the quarantine tank once it is no longer needed. It can be put back on short notice as long as you have the cycled sponge filter.

And of course, there is no need for a quarantine tank if you have no plan to get any new fish anytime soon. It is the most important for the aquarium hobbyists who frequently add new fish to their main tank. The more fish you have, the more expensive your fish is, the more reason you have to use a quarantine fish tank. Saltwater aquarium keepers will benefit even more from a quarantine tank.  Because marine fish have much higher price tag.

Top 13 Most Likely Reasons Why Your Aquarium Fish Died

Why did my fish die? It is the most frequently asked question about aquarium fish. Every year, people buy tens millions of aquarium fish. Most of the fish species have a natural lifespan of at least several years. Some of them can live up to a decade or more in the wild. Somehow most of the fish died within weeks after purchase. The average lifespan of aquarium fish after leaving the shop is no more than 3~4 weeks. Many of them died within days, or even within hours. They are the most mistreated pet animal in the world.

For sure, fish are fragile animals compare to us. It does not mean they died for no reason at all. There is always a cause. Majority fish deaths are due to some beginner mistakes we can identify and avoid. Some of the errors are more common than the others.

For example,
A lot of the fish deaths occurred soon after new fish are introduced. Also, a lot of fish deaths took place after a massive water change. Some other fish died after a large feeding. Anyway, the majority of them died in the first month.

In the following, we will discuss the top 13 most common causes of aquarium fish deaths and how to avoid them. They are not necessarily in any order. Some of them are closely related.

1. Fish died in shock because there is a sudden large change in water temperature, PH, hardness, etc. when the fish owner put them in the fish tank.

Since fishes have no body heat, they are sensitive to sudden changes in water temperature. Water PH and water hardness can also affect them if there is a sudden large change.

When you brought the fish home from a pet shop, or from elsewhere, it is usually in a plastic bag of water. It is most likely the water in the plastic bag is very different from the water in your home aquarium.
“Dump” the fish in the fish tank right away can kill them quite fast. If the fish are in severe shock, they usually die within hours, if not by the next day or two. Most of the quick deaths of fish are due to this reason.

Solution: You must “acclimate” the fish slowly to give them time to adapt to the new water.

2. Fish died to untreated tap water

Tap water is perfectly fine for aquarium fish as long as you have used an aquarium water conditioner. Without the aquarium water conditioner, the chlorine and chloramine in the tap water will kill the fish.

Solution: Just buy a bottle of aquarium water conditioner. They are available everywhere. A single bottle can last for a very long time. And it works almost immediately when you add it to the tap water.

3. Tropical fish died without a heater.

Tropical fish are from warm water ranged from 70~80F+ (over 20C). Unless you live in a tropical area, the water In the fish tank can’t be warm enough without an aquarium heater.
Since the majority of the fish in aquarium fish trade are tropical fish, they are more sensitive to the water temperature.

Solution: We must use an aquarium heater in a tropical fish aquarium, or the fish will freeze to death.

4. Fish died to lack of oxygen

Fish needs dissolved oxygen in the water. They will die if the dissolved oxygen in the fish tank run out. Several things can cause it to happen.
a. The fish tank is too small. Less water means less dissolved air.
b. Overstocked the aquarium with too many fish. The more fish you have, the oxygen they need.
c. The water temperature is too high. The higher water temperature, the less dissolved oxygen.
d. There is no air pump.

Solution: Get an aquarium air pump. It can increase the rate of gas exchange between the water and atmosphere.

5. Fish died due to ammonia poisoning because there is no aquarium filter

An aquarium filter is mandatory. It is for biological filtration. Without it, the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle won’t start. As a result, toxic ammonia will build up and kill the fish.

Fish produce ammonia as a waste product. Their poop along with leftover fish food will rot and produce more ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to fish. The concentration of ammonia must stay at 0ppm (part per million) to be safe for the fish. In a closed system, ammonia can’t go anywhere but to build up.

Solution: Buy an aquarium filter, and have it run 24/7.

6. You have not cycled the new aquarium/fish tank/filter.

A new aquarium filter must be fully cycled to maintain aquarium nitrogen cycle. It takes a source of ammonia and 4~6 weeks to cycle a new aquarium fully. During which time, ammonia and nitrite will build up. Both will increase to very high concentration before they decrease. However, most fish can’t last that long. Most if not all fish will die before you can fully cycle the filter in a new aquarium.

Solution: Do a fishless cycling before adding any fish. Or get a bottle of live bacteria product such as Tetra SafeStart to jump-start the aquarium nitrogen cycle.

7. Fish died to overfeed

Overfeed fish can cause a digestive problem and kill the fish directly. More food than it is needed can also cause water pollution and create more toxic ammonia and nitrite which will too kill the fish.

Solution: Feed the fish only once a day, with no more food than they can eat in less than a minute. In this case, less is better.

8. Fish died in a fish tank that is too small

A small fish tank has very little water. Too little water means too little-dissolved oxygen which we have discussed earlier. Too little water means more unstable water temperature, hardness, PH. Pollution also builds up more quickly. Some people even keep fish in small containers, bowls, cups, jars. None of which is suitable for fish keeping.

Solution: In general, we do not recommend getting anything smaller than a 5-gallon fish tank. The bigger a fish tank is, the easier to keep the fish alive. The bigger, the better.  You must find a suitable fish tank for your fish.

9. Fish died to unsuitable fish food
Some people feed the fish random food items such as rice and bread. It does not work that way. Fish have very different diet requirement. They need mostly easy to digest source of protein and fat. Carbohydrate is useless to most fish species. They can’t sustain themselves by eating rice, bread, or any random human foods.

Another example is, some marketers sold betta fish in a flower vase with a plant. They claim the betta, and the plant will sustain each other. How? Betta might be hungry enough to chew on the plant roots, just like humans in famine might eat grass roots and tree skin. But they will still die of malnutrition. Because betta fish is a carnivore that feeds on live insects in the water.

Solution: Buy a bottle of real fish food. They will last months. With some supplements such as bloodworm and brine shrimp as nutrition treats.

10. Fish died of diseases and parasites

There are hundreds if not thousands of fish parasites and diseases out there. For example, ick, mouth rot, fin rot, gill fluke, etc. just to name a few. Many of them are contagious to the fish. A single sick fish might cause the entire fish stock to die if left untreated. Sometimes people found their whole tank started to die after they have introduced a few new fish to the aquarium.

Solution: Buy healthy fish from a reputable source. If you buy local, pick fish from healthy tanks with no sign of sickness, parasites, and dead fish. Isolate new fish in a quarantine tank for minimal three weeks if you already have an established aquarium. You might also want to relocate the sick fish to a separated tank if you are not sure it is contagious. Treat the infected fish as soon as possible with proven working fish meds.

11. Fish died after an improper water change.

As mentioned earlier, fish can die to a sudden change in the water. When you do a large water change in a wrong way, it can also cause shock to fish and even kill them.

Some people changed 100% of the water, and some others even took the fish out of the water during a water change. Not waiting for the new water to have the same temperature as the water in the fish tank is another big problem.

Solution: Never change 100% of the water, and never take the fish out during the water change. It is called “partial water change” for a reason. Under normal circumstances, only replace 30~50% of the water once a week. In any case, do not change more than 70~80% of the water at once. Before the water change, we must prepare the new water in advance to allow it to rise to the same temperature as the water in the fish tank. Use an aquarium heater to heat up the fresh water before using it if necessary.

12. Fish died without a water change for too long

Even if you have fully cycled the aquarium filter, the final product of aquarium nitrogen cycle – nitrate will build up. While nitrate is relatively harmless, too high concentration can affect the fish’s immune system in the long run. It can also crash the water PH.

If you have finally done a partial water change after many weeks or even months, it will restore the water buffer and PH all at once. Fish won’t like the sudden change, and they can get in shock.

Solution: Do a partial water change of 30~50% once a week to keep nitrate in check, and it is also to keep the changes in water more gradual.

13. Fish died because they are unhealthy to begin with (poor choice of where to buy the fish from is a mistake too, right?)

Sometimes, fish still died when we have done everything right.

Many fish farms have poor conditions for their fish. They overbreed them, feed with cheap fish food. Some of the fish farms use tons of antibiotics in the water to keep fish alive. As a result, these fish are weak. They might die soon after they left the antibiotics filled water even if you do everything right.

In general, most Asian fish farms have a lower quality of aquarium fish. European and American fish farms are better managed.

In other cases, the middle-man keep fish in poor conditions. Places like Walmart and many chain stores have interconnected aquarium system. That is, all of their fish tanks use one central filter system. One fish with parasites can potentially infect all the fish in all tanks.

I have first-hand experience with aquarium fish from different sources. The fish from the better source is naturally more expensive, but they worth the extra cost since they do not drop dead like flies.

Solution: Buy fish from a good source. Make sure you know their origin. Some reputable online vendors (yes, they ship fish) list the source of their fish next to the price. If you buy from a local shop, pay attention to the conditions of the fish.

There are other causes for fish to die in an aquarium. But we have covered the most common ones. Overall, fish should not die too quickly in large numbers around the same time. If it happens, you know there is a problem. We can avoid most fish deaths by preventing the beginner mistakes. Just keep in mind that fish might still die on occasion for unknown reasons if you have done everything right by the book. As long as only one fish died (out of many) at a time in a long time (weeks, months), you should sleep well knowing it is not your fault. Not saying you should skip sleep if you have made a mistake. Just please learn from the mistakes if it happens. We were all beginners once. ?