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10 simple questions of the beginning aquarist

So you decided to get in the hobby of fishkeeping but don't know how to start. Could you suppose that creating a unique beauty of underwater world is real to everyone? One should just observe some rules which we are going to discuss today with the experts of "Oranda" pet shop.

Question: What is the best heater for the tank?

Answer: For fish and plant activity water temperature plays a tremendous role. In the countries where cold weather may stand for many days you can't go without the heater at all.

To maintain the temperature 1 °F higher inside the aquarium than outside, you will need to apply a certain wattage, which depends on the volume of the tank. The smaller is the aquarium the higher capacity is needed to heat each liter of the volume. Use the table below to determine, which heater you should use.

Tank capacity, l
+ 1 'F
Wattage per 1 l
Heater capacity, w

E.g., you have a 100-litre tank and you want to keep the water temperature 6 degrees higher than the temperature in your room. To heat water 1 degree up in the 100-litre tank, you need to apply 0.1 watt per each liter. Thus to heat the whole volume, 100 x 0.1 = 10 watt is needed. To heat the water 6 degrees higher you must use six times bigger wattage. So you'll need a 60-watt heater.

Q.: What kind of equipment is needed for the aquarium?

A.: You should acquire: lighting fixture, electric heater, thermometer, air pump, net, filter or water pump and feeder.

Q.: Why lighting is needed in the aquarium?

A.: Many beginning aquarium hobbyists make a mistake thinking that lighting in the tank is purely decorative. In fact this is far from being true. Beside the decorative function lighting has a very important physiological role. Being constantly in the dusk evokes a long-term stress with animals. All the aquarium inhabitants need light. Though one should have a notion about the limits. Lack of light provides a poor growth of algae and brown deposits on their leaves. Too much light is also bad: the water gets blooming and becomes greenish.

Q.: How to do a correct lighting?

A.: Specialists recommend counting the needed amount of lighting from the ration 1 w per liter of water approximately, e.g. for a 50 l tank you should take an incandescent bulb with the capacity of about 50 w.

The classic variant is: the source of light from the upper front edge of tank is directed at the back vertical wall. Sometimes the inside lighting is used: the hermetic lamp is set at the bottom of the tank. Inside lighting is often used as a heater. The daylight period should be not less than 10 to 16 hours.

Q.: Glass or plastic tank?

A.: One might not state flatly which one is better. Professionals succeed in using both. In our turn, we are able to list some merits and demerits of glass and plastic tanks to allow you make your own choice.

Glass tank Easy to clean; proofed from been damaged with the scraper The glass is leached by water; as a result the pH of water changes
Plastic tank Non-fragile - safer material Liable to scraping and quickly loses good appearance; for cleaning a special capron sponge or a capron sack filled with fine crushed salt is needed
According to experienced aquarists the spawn of such fish as Neon dies more often in the glass than in the plastic tank

So, we can't say plastic is worse than glass or vice versa. This is the matter of taste.

Q.: Is any substrate needed in the tank?

A.: Yes, certainly. This is not just a decoration, but a natural filter. If no substrate, the fish might be frightened by the mirror-like empty bottom. Many fish like to dig in the substrate: they physiologically require this. One more detail: catfish fries need to rub their belly on the substrate after feeding for a proper digestion.

The best gravel is coarse sand or pebbles sized not less than 0.2-0.3 in. We do not recommend using fine sand. The smaller are the grains the easier they stick to each other and the faster the substrate becomes caked. Thus the gas exchange becomes upset. This entails useful microorganisms to stop their activity, and the decay processes take place inside the substrate.

It is recommended to lay substrate in a 1.5-3 in. layer - thicker at the back wall of tank.

Before putting substrate into the tank, carefully wash it until the water is clean and boil for 15 min in order to kill harmful bacteria.

Q.: Round or rectangular tank?

A.: For a fish aquarium a rectangular tank is better. It's easier to arrange everything inside. When you take a round one, there are some more things to think about. As a rule, spawning fish never reproduce in a round aquarium. This form fits better to guppies, swordtails, platies, mollies and other live bearers.

Q.: Is aeration necessary?

A.: Yes, it is. 24 hr aeration supplies water with oxygen makes the temperature equal across all layers of water and stabilizes its oxidation-reduction potential. Beside this, the stream of bubbles makes the water flow, and the running water furthers growing and reproducing of fish.

Adjust the air pump so that it would produce as many small bubbles as possible. You can mask it at the tank bottom under the pile of pebbles or hide behind the driftwood. This way you'd succeed in decoration.

Q.: What type of aquatic plants is better - artificial or natural?

A.: For decorative purposes artificial plants can fit alright, if not many. Using them you benefit from that they need a mere care and at times look better than natural. But they can hardly be a valid substitute for real live flora. Natural aquatic plants provide biological equilibrium in the tank. By the way, many kinds of fish can't go without vegetable food at all, e.g. mollies may perish in absence of live greenery. Remember that any plant produces oxygen needed for life of fish. As for spawning, many kinds of fish, inversely, prefer artificial foliage: it helps preserve eggs.

Q.: Small or big sized tank?

A.: Much depends on the size of room and your wish. A general rule is: not more than 50 l per 16 square inches of usable area, e.g. if you room sizes 2.2 ft2 you can afford a 1000 l tank.

The choice also depends on the kind of fish you are going to keep. It is recommended to count density of the tank population on the basis that for each 1 cm of fish body length 1 l of water is needed. If you are going to keep big fish, choose the appropriate large glass house for them.

Remember that the bigger is the tank, the easier it is to care about (despite one may think of the opposite). This is explained by the biological equilibrium that is settled faster and is longer lasting in the large volume. A big one is the capacity over 150 l.

"Foster your own friend" 2000 (newspaper)
Translated by Tatiana Karpova (Moscow)
(MSU, Biology faculture, Dep. zoology and ecology).