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Re: NFC: Basic new aquarium set up, [long]

Hi Charles, Daryl, and all.

Daryl's posting has lots of really good stuff in it, but it has what, IMHO, are
some very minor places I might tweak. I hope my comments are not taken as a
criticism of an excellent posting, but as a bit of added information for
consideration in the library project.

Phylesis at aol_com wrote:
> This is just a suggestion of one possible scenario in setting up the kind of
> display you've mentioned based on my own experiance. Hope it helps.
> Setup and Maintanance of Public Aquarium Displays
> Initial Set Up
> Tank- 20 gallon long
> Lighting- single standard commercial hood light, with a full spectrum daylight
> flourescent.

Try at least twice that much light. With about 2W/G of full spectrum
flourescent, plants will grow, but you still do not need CO2 injection as a
limiting macro-nutrient. At 1W/G only really low-light plants will be happy. The
tank will also "look" very dim, for full spectrum doesn't have as much in the
green where our eye is most sensitive. Put the lights on a timer for 12-15 hrs a
day. Cut that back for a while if algae becomes a big nuisance.

Two 15-18W compact flourescents with tri-phosphors work pretty well, too, if
there is a good reflector or aluminum foil in the hood. They screw right into
the sockets for incandescents.

> Substrate- 50/50 gravel and archilite( Profile's Proffessional Aquatic Plant
> Soil) Mix a handful of gravel from a well seasoned tank including the mulm.
> Also add about 5 gallons of seasoned water on initial setup. Place a few   (
> less is more ) pieces of Plant tabs for aquatic plants strategicaly throughout
> the substrate to get the plants growing. With age and an accumulation of
> ditritus, the substrate will be able to maintane the rooted plants with the
> need for additional fertilizer.

"...with(out) the need...?"

The Arcilite should, IMHO, be much less than the gravel. I mix it in the bottom
third of the gravel, at 50:50, then cover it with about twice that much gravel.
It's fine so it gravitates downward, anyway. This method avoids mess when
planting or removing plants, but still gives all the benefit of a nutrient-free

> Water- Use a conditioner such as Amquel to remove the toxins ( chlorine,
> chroramines, ammonia ) because this product will not intefere with the
> essential elements required by the plants and fish. 

Not so, unfortunately. It will not interfere with *biofiltering*, but neither
Kordon nor J. F. Kuhns (the inventor) make any claims that it will leave *any*
ammonia available for plants. My experience is that even Java moss can be
starved by the remaining Amquel sequestering all the nitrogenous waste from the
fish before the plants can get any. For that reason, use the absolute minimum
needed to get the chlorine to read zero. Any excess hurts plants a lot, in my

> Some of the other products
> lock these essentials up, making them unavailable to the plants and fish. Add
> 5 gallons of seasoned water from a old cycled tank or pond. If you know the
> water conditions to be adaquate, not polluted, than 5 gal. of wild lake,
> stream or pond water on the second week of cycling would also help increase
> the infusoria and other essential microbes.
> Filtration- Aqua-Clear power filters are cheap and effective and relatively
> maintanance free. Use it at initial setup to remove particulate, then discard
> the charcoal filter bag and use ceramic bio-blocks in it's place. At this
> point the filter isn't really removing anything from the water, but instead,
> transforming the ammonia into useable nutrient.

Ammonia *is* the most usable nutrient for all plants. Nitrite and nitrate are
much less useful to the plants, and represent the primary reason we have to do
water changes. The filter bag should be rinsed once in a while to restore flow
and get rid of mulm collected.

70% of all biofiltering is done in the tank, in the substrate and on the glass,
so the filter is *mostly* to clarify the water by removing fine particles, and
secondarily to provide more "biofiltering." Keep the bag, IMHO, and toss the
charcoal. The fuzzy bag provides excellent surface area for nitrogen-fixing
bacteria, anyway. :-)

> Temperture- The tank in my setup stays constant at around 78F from the ambient
> heat of the lighthood. I doubt a heater would be nescessary, though easy to
> add if it becomes so. I use a 'stick on the side of the tank' thermoreader to
> keep track of the temp.
> Plants- Live plants are an nescessary elemant in the setup. They remove toxins
> and filter the water naturally.

Amen, to that!

> The best plants for this purpose and in conjunction with the lighting would be
> Java moss, Cerataphyllum demersum, young Vallisnaria, or other grasslike
> aquatics and dwarf or slow growing Nymphaea species. 

Don't forget the lovely "plastic plant that grows," *Anubias barteri var. nana*.

My *Ceratophyllum demersum* tends to "crash" from time to time, making a huge
mess in the tank. YMMV.

> Do not use plants such as
> Cabomba or others that produce large amounts of mulm. 

Other hornworts, anachris and similar "bunch" plants should be avoided for the
same reasons.

> Remember, a heavily
> planted tank is able to support more fish without more maintanance. I have
> recently added water sprite, though not much growth yet, it may prove to be an
> intersting addition as a low growing foreground plant.

Water Sprite (*Ceratopsis sp.*) usually gets too big for that. Plant it way
against the back, use as a centerpiece, or let it float. I even have one species
(not *thalicroides*) that easily crowds clear up to the surface of a 35G hex
that is 24" deep!

> Fish- a community set up will work well in this low maintanance setup. I would
> suggest adding all the fish load at once so they can set up territories. Later
> additions would be susceptable to disputes, sort of like adding to any bio-
> load even in the wild. I have had up to 20 fish in a 20 gal. long for almost a
> year now with relatively no probs and very little maintanance. I would ,
> however suggest no more than 15 or so. The stress of overcrowding has a
> tendancy to produce fungal infections. A single dwarf crayfish might be in
> order too, as they only feed on ditritus( mulm ) and won't bother the fish.
> Just make sure the fish are compatable both in numbers and gender.
> General Ongoing Maintanance
> Place the tank away from any natural light source.

Particularly direct sunlight. The side toward any window will tend to get lots
of algae, even without direct sun. Winter is worse, as the sun is lower in the
southern sky, causing the annual "Christmas Algae Outbreak," when the light
reaches tanks shaded the rest of the year.

> Feeding- Feed every other day with frozen foods such as Brine and occasionaly
> bloodworms. Shrimp heads would also be a nice treat and help the fish keep
> color either dropped in whole or chopped up. Feed only what the fish will
> consume in 10 minutes. If food remains any longer uneaten, then you've fed too
> much. Flake and dry foods tend to cloud the water and mess with the chemistry.
> Water- Change the water once a month or so. 1/4 tank (5 gal.) changes will do.
> Use Amquel to condition the tap water the day before and put an airstone in
> the bucket. You can also use a bag of peat balls to temper the PH if
> nescessary. Squeeze the peat into the bucket once it is waterlogged.

That generally only works in very soft (i.e., unbuffered) water.

That change schedule is minimal, and works. I would do more, oftener, for a
public display tank. There's no such thing as too many water changes. 25% weekly
would be better.

> Cleaning- You probably won't need to clean the substrate, especially if you
> stick to low mulm producing plants. Clean algea growth ONLY from the viewing
> sides of the tank. Algea is a great natural filter and I believe nescessary to
> the health of the tank. The filter should not require any cleaning after the
> initial setup.

See comment above.

> Disease- On the first sign of fungal infection, usually seen as the fish beat
> or brush thier bodies against  against plants and substrate, dose the tank
> with Quick-Cure. I use it at just a little over half the recomended dosage and
> use it for a few days until the infection or the signs thereof clear up. I
> know salt is also a recomended treatment, but again, it  messes with the
> chemistry and requires water changes following the treatment. The Quick-Cure
> does not interupt the regular maintanance scheduale. If the infection
> persists, replace the infected fish. Eventualy you'll end up with fish
> resistant to the fungal infections.

Fish never "get" fungus. It grows quickly on tissue already killed by something
else. Be sure to use the correct treatment, for bacteria, flukes, oodimium
(velvet) and ich all require somewhat different treatments. [See the suggestion
at the end.]

> These suggestions are based on a 20 gal. long setup I have had running for
> almost a year now. 

It is most presumptious of me to argue with success. :-) What works, works. I
hope my comments are taken for what they are worth, some bits of experience *I*
have accumulated and wanted to share. [Way less work than Daryl's excellent job
of assembling all the basic information, BTW.]

> I change the water once a month following the prcedure
> mentioned above. It hs Java moss over the entire footprint interspused with a
> Nymphaea species and Cerataphyllum growing across the top of the entire tank
> which needs occasional trimming. Rocks for hiding places would work also. I
> would refrain from using wood as it too will tend to change the chemistry of
> the water. But thats a judgement call. If you have a stable wood, use it. This
> is one of the easiest tanks I've ever had, hope this helps.
> Good luck with your project Charles and keep us informed.

I'll second that wish.

One last point that was missed. A basic book on aquarium-keeping should be an
essential piece of equipment the library should have handy at all times. [They
rarely have them among their books, BTW. :-)] Let *them* order it, tho, using
their discount. ;-)

For example, Amazon.com lists:

                     Aquarium Fish Survival Manual : A Comprehensive Guide to
                     Freshwater and Marine Fish 
                     by Brian Ward, 
                                    List Price: $18.95
                                    Our Price: $13.27
                                    You Save: $5.68 (30%)

                                    Availability: Usually ships within 24

                     Paperback (November 1995) 
                     Barrons Educational Series; ISBN: 0812093917 ; Dimensions
(in inches):                           0.52 x 9.66 x 7.47 

I haven't read it, but know the Barrons editors are most competent, so would
assume it is quite good for the purpose. [My "basic" books are dated from the
mid '50s!]

Others range from <$4 to over $25. Some others are pretty good, too, I'm sure.


Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679  huntley1 at home dot com

                  Libertarians prefer to do it free!