Here are some answers to frequently asked questions concerning aquarium keeping:
On average, most tropical aquariums do best with temperatures ranging from 23 to 28 degrees Celsius (73-82 degrees Fahrenheit).
The type of lighting depends upon what kind of animals you desire to keep. One of the most important factors is the light intensity. A high color temperature is also important. Aquarium lights with color temperatures ranging between 5,000 to 7,000 degrees Kelvin would give excellent colors to a marine system. Another factor is the "Color Rendering Index" or CRI. The CRI of sunlight is 100 and a high CRI on an artificial light means that it is very close to replicating the colors of natural sunlight.
Salinity is a measure of the total amount of dissolved salts in seawater. It is measured in parts per thousand (ppt or 0/00). The average salinity of the ocean is around 34 to 37 ppt. Marine aquariums are also measured in specific gravity. Specific gravity may be defined as the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water. Since density of liquid varies with temperature, so does specific gravity. It has been determined that liquids with a specific gravity less than 1 are lighter than water; those greater than 1 are heavier than water. The specific gravity of seawater at 35 ppt is 1.026. The proper range for a marine aquarium is 1.020 to 1.026. Refractometers and hydrometers can be used to estimate salinity in marine systems. Many different kits are available at local aquarium shops.
pH is an abbreviation for pondus hydrogenii which also stands for "Power of Hydrogen" or "Weight of Hydrogen." pH is a measure of the effective acidity or alkalinity of a solution. It is expressed as the negative logarithm of the hydrogen-ion concentration. Pure water has a hydrogen ion concentration equal to 10-7 moles per liter at standard conditions. The negative logarithm of this quantity is 7. Pure water has a pH value of 7. The pH scale usually is considered as extending from 0 to 14. As the scale drops towards 0, the solution becomes more acidic. As the scale rises toward 14, the solution becomes more basic. Small pH testing kits are available at most aquarium shops. These kits have color codes to indicate the approximate pH.
Three Types of filtration:
There are three major types of filtration used in marine aquariums -- mechanical, chemical and biological. A good mixture utilizing all three types of filtration would be advisable Biological filtration utilizes bacteria to break down waste material in the water. During mechanical filtration, small particles in the water pass through the filter media and get caught. Example of this would be rapid sand filters in large aquariums and simple foam pads in home aquariums. Chemical filters may utilize activated carbon to remove dissolved molecules from the water. Another example of a chemical filter would be a protein foam skimmer. All types of filtration are readily available in most aquarium shops.
Undergravel filtration is a simple way to filter the aquarium. It is usually made of a flat plate or screen which is set up off the aquarium bottom, leaving a small empty space below it. Filter media (usually gravel) is placed on top of the filter. there are at least two uplift tubes which are connected to the space below the filter and draw water up through them as a result of an air pump on the top of the tube. In this situation, the water passes down through the gravel and then back up to the surface of the aquarium through the uplift tubes.
Freshwater or Saltwater
The most colorful fish are found in marine habitats. A marine or saltwater aquarium is desired by many aquarists. A marine aquarium is more difficult to maintain than a freshwater aquarium. Salt, being a corrosive agent, can be damaging to a lot of aquarium equipment. Constant monitoring of the cleanliness of the aquarium, inside and out, is important to the overall appearance of the area. A freshwater system, on the other hand, is much easier to maintain. A weekly cleaning will usually suffice to keep the appearance looking good. There are many freshwater fish that are just as colorful as marine fish and will do very well in a home aquarium. When setting up an aquarium for the first time, a freshwater aquarium is suggested.
a. The aquarium.
An aquarium of 76 liters (20 gallons) or more is recommended for marine systems. For a freshwater system, it is recommended to begin with a 38 liter (10 gallon) aquarium.
b. The filter.
They types of filtration elements described in the previous section can be used in both freshwater and marine aquariums. An undergravel filter with at least one or two airlift tubes is advisable for most systems.
c. The gravel.
Most types of gravel will work for a freshwater system. A gravel is calcareous (containing calcium) is recommended for marine systems, although it is not recommended for fresh water systems that require a low pH. The gravel should be 2-3 inches thick on top of the undergravel filter to provide the correct filtering capacity of the aquarium.
d. Outside filters.
A filter unit which consists of a plastic compartment that hangs on the outside of the aquarium is another good filter to use. It pulls water from the aquarium and runs it through both a filter fiber and activated carbon. This also does a good job of circulating the water.
There are many different styles and sizes of air pumps that can be used for aquariums. The size of the air pump depends upon the size of the aquarium in use. Standard air-line tubing can be found in all aquarium shops. An air stone should be placed at the end of the tubing and placed in the airlift tubes. This will provide air and circulation to your aquarium and will also help the undergravel filter to operate normally. Powerhead pumps also help to circulate water and some are equipped with a venturi that helps to aerate.
The temperature of the water is very important. If there are variances in the temperature of the water it can lead to the demise of all the animal life. A constant temperature is recommended. Tropical aquariums do well at temperatures of 23 to 28 C (73 to 82 F). There are many different types of heaters available. The correct size is determined by the number of liters of water in the aquarium. Normally the heater should be two watts to every liter in the aquarium.
g. Lights and reflectors.
The aquarium should be covered at all times. The covers reduce evaporation and also keep the fish from jumping out of the aquarium. Most reflectors or hoods are made of plastic or stainless steel. If you have a saltwater aquarium, the hood should be a noncorrosive material. It is advisable to choose a hood with a florescent lamp.
Putting the Pieces Together
a. Setting up.
The new aquarium should be filled with water to check for leaks before setting up your filtration. The undergravel filter should be placed in the empty aquarium first (the water is the last part added to the aquarium). The new gravel should be rinsed before being set into place because it normally is very dusty. Assemble the air line tubing and outside filter according to the directions. The activated carbon should be rinsed before use because it is also dusty. Finally, add the water to the aquarium. The air pumps, the outside filter and the heater can be turned on once the aquarium is full of water.
b. Establishing biological filtration.
Once the aquarium is in place, it should run for at least 24 hours before adding any animals. The levels of pH, salinity, temperature and ammonia should be checked to be sure they are all at acceptable levels. The addition of live plants or one small inexpensive fish may help to initiate the biological filtration. Once all levels are acceptable for your particular style of aquarium, fish can be added to the aquarium.
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