[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

NFC: Adopt A tank

Heres the almost final version of the Adopt a Tank Protocol.....It was
too big for the conservation kids list :) Let me know what you folks
think........A feel free to pass it on....

The NFC's Adopt-A-Tank Program:
Learning The Natural Way!

Many schools, youth organizations and 4H clubs have established aquatic
sciences programs. These programs teach us about our aquatic friends.
Students learn about the ebb and flow of nature and a bit about the
environment. While all these things are worthwhile, they are missing
something. We at the Native Fish Conservancy think there is a better
way. We think you should stock your tank with local species. You will
learn about your local fish, their homes, their needs and in the process
learn about conservation. While you are out collecting you will get away
from the books and get into the great outdoors.

What is the Adopt-A-Tank program?

The Native Fish Conservancy (NFC) has created an Adopt-A-Tank program to
assist schools, libraries, youth groups (i.e. 4-H, Scouts, church
groups, etc.) and youth workers in setting up aquariums stocked with
local fish. The purpose of the program is to provide kids of all ages
with a fun, rewarding and educational experience tied closely to their
own communities. Through the Adopt-A-Tank Program, the kids should
develop a greater environmental awareness and appreciation for
conservation efforts. At the NFC, we understand the importance of
teaching today's youth about the natural world, and are devoted to
giving them the opportunity to discover the beauty and excitement of
Nature through our unique program.

However please keep in mind that this program allows any organization or
individual the basic tools to start a local species tank. We would love
to be able to help you along the way, but if you decide you want to take
the info here and go solo that's great. All we are here for is to help
you learn about our local fishes. Whichever way you go, follow the laws
and have fun. Because our local fish are very cool.

Each Adopt-A-Tank project will require a bit of effort from both the NFC
and the person or group involved to get it up and running. In this guide
we have provided the necessary information for project fundraising, tank
setup and maintenance, collection and transport of native fish, and some
of the possible educational directions the project can lead the kids.

What is the Native Fish Conservancy (NFC)?

The NFC is a grassroots conservation organization. Dedicated to
advancing the study, conservation and keeping of native North American
fish species, the NFC is a federally recognized, not for profit
organization comprised of volunteers from across the nation. Members are
encouraged to work locally and share their experiences and discoveries
in order to increase public education of North America's most ignored
fauna: native fish.  As more complete life histories are developed on
these often misunderstood fish, more effective conservation measures can
be enacted in the future that will benefit not only the fish, but the
environment as a whole.

Besides the Adopt-A-Tank Program, the NFC also supports other grassroots
Conservation programs designed to better the state of Native fish.
Including two programs of special interest to aquarists, the Breeders
Program and the Exotic Removal Program. In the Breeders Program, devoted
members are currently seeking to discover what needs must be met for
several species that will ensure their future propagation in both the
aquarium and the wild. The Exotic Removal Program is working to relieve
the pressure placed on native fish by the misguided and careless
introduction of non-native species. These Exotics are then sold to
wholesalers and Aquarium societies thus making the program pay for
itself and earn a little extra for greater conservation work.

Why was the Adopt-A-Tank Program created?

The main reason is public education. People will only save what they
care about and only care about what they know. So the simple act of
setting up a tank with local fish educates the kids and Youth workers
along with the parents and every passerby.

As the world gets smaller, we put more pressure on our natural
resources. The little guys are often overshadowed by more high profile
wildlife, especially non-game native fish species such as minnows,
darters and shiners. Few people are aware of how vitally important these
fish are to the continued well being of the environment. Their loss
directly impacts ALL forms of wildlife, as the reduction or
disappearance of each species disrupts the natural cycle. North America
hosts 10% of the world's total fish population, and many of these
species are listed as threatened or endangered. So lets work together
and share with our classmates, friends, future Presidents and neighbors
about local species.

Fund Raising:
Obtaining What You Need Made Simple

As much as we would like to, the NFC cannot afford to supply every
Adopt-A-Tank project with all of the equipment it needs. Therefore, it
may be necessary on your part to seek donations that will cover what
your group and the NFC cannot provide. Fund raising for this kind of
project tends to be much easier than others. To give you an idea on how
to seek donations, we have provided the following information based on
earlier, successful projects. Before you get started do an inventory of
available used tanks and equipment. We will bet someone has an old tank
in a garage or basement they would be happy to donate to the cause.
After that do a need list and just ask around. You'd be surprised how
much people will give for this project with just a visit, phone call or

Who should be approached?

You may be surprised to discover how many organizations, businesses and
individuals will be eager to donate materials, equipment and funds for
your project. Likely contributors will be:

COMMUNITY INTEREST GROUPS.  Such groups as Kiwanis, Lions Clubs,
fraternal lodges, veterans' organizations, etc. often raise financial
support for projects that contribute to their communities.

YOUR COMMUNITY.  Chances are your own community may have one or more
individuals that would be willing to help contribute to your project.

PET STORES.  Who better to ask for support than these businesses? Pet
stores often have used but operable equipment lying around that they
will be glad to donate.  Pet stores may also be convinced to offer
generous discounts on equipment and supplies that are purchased from

AQUARIUM CLUBS.  Comprised of dedicated aquarists, these organizations
should be quite enthusiastic about supporting an Adopt-A-Tank project.

LOCAL BUSINESSES.  Especially in library based programs, where their
contributions may be publicized, some local businesses can be convinced
to donate whatever they have to offer to your project.  Businesses that
rely on maintaining good public images, such as banks and insurance
agencies can provide financial support, while smaller businesses like
bait and tackle shops can offer collecting equipment and live specimens
for the tank.

This is by no means a complete list of possible donors. Once the
decision has been made to start an Adopt-A-Tank project, you should make
two lists. One list will be of the equipment you will need and the
approximate cost of each item. The other list will be of the possible
donors in your community and methods of reaching them.

How should the project be presented to possible donators?

When asking for donations for your Adopt-A-Tank project, it is important
to stress the benefits it offers to the kids and the community. Be
prepared to answer questions about the project, such as what type of
setup it will be, where will it be kept, who is involved, what are you
contributing to the project and why it is important. For projects
hosted by public places like libraries, contributors can be recognized
with a sign accompanying the tank. Many businesses will find the
opportunity quite appealing to have their concern for the community and
the children advertised in such a way.

How can the NFC help?

Understandably, some possible donators would like some evidence of the
Adopt-A-Tank Program's credibility before deciding to contribute to your
project. Please feel free to direct them to us. We will be able to
answer any questions they may have.

If you are not be able to get enough donations to cover everything you
need. Let us in the NFC know who has donated what, and which gaps remain
in your equipment and supply list. Through fundraising and contributions
of our own, we may be able to fill them! We will often supply fish for
many projects after you do your part. So get us involved if you can!

Tank Setup and Maintenance:
Creating a New Home for Your Natives

You may find that few projects provide as much entertainment and
education as an aquarium. Each tank has the ability to display events
that you would otherwise be able to witness only on the Discovery
Channel or a PBS program. To experience such a slice of Nature's
splendor in your own home, school, church or library is infinitely more
rewarding than watching it on TV.

Preparing for your project.

A bit of planning will be necessary to ensure the success of your
project. The following subjects should be given some consideration
before starting:

SPECIES.  What species of fish would you like to keep? Do you want to
display a sampling of the species native to your area, or would you
prefer a single species tank? If you are planning on keeping more than
one type of fish in the same tank, are they compatible? Keep in mind
that most fish will eat anything that fits in their mouths, and some
fish have really BIG mouths! Learn as much as you can about what kinds
of native fish can be found in your area, then base your decision for
which ones and how many to keep based off what you have learned. Two
great sources for this information are the Peterson Field Guide to
Freshwater Fishes and North American Native Fishes for the Home
Aquarium. Both of which are available on our website at

TANK SIZE.  The size, numbers and needs of the fish you wish to keep
will dictate the size of the aquarium you will need. Conversely, space
and resource restrictions may limit the tank size you are able to have,
which will be the deciding factor for the species and numbers of fish
available for your project.

One important general rule of thumb is to keep no more than 1" of
fish per one gallon of water. Thus, a 2.5 gallon tabletop aquarium may
be ideal to house a pair of pygmy sunfish and a couple of plants.
However, a 30" northern pike cannot be properly kept in a 30 gallon
aquarium due to the restriction of movement the tank's size would place
on the fish.

Two ideal tank sizes for the Adopt-A-Tank Program are the 20 gallon long
and the 30 gallon. These sizes allow for a variety of species to be kept
without requiring too much maintenance from those involved. They are
also small enough to make finding a suitable tank location relatively

EQUIPMENT and SUPPLIES.  There are several items besides the tank that
you will need to properly maintain your aquarium. The bare basics are
the following:

1. Hood with fluorescent lighting.  Many native fish are quite adept
at jumping out of aquariums. Therefore, a hood that covers the entirety
of the tank is a necessity. Many commercial hoods come with a lighting
system. Avoid the incandescent lights as these may heat up the tank's
water and provide little aid to live plants should you choose to use
them. On the other hand,
fluorescent lights last longer, have little to no effect on the
water temperature, bring out the fishes' natural coloration and
use less energy. Wide spectrum fluorescent bulbs may also be
purchased that will help aquatic plants photosynthesize.

2. Filter.  There are many types of filters available on the
market that will keep your aquarium's water healthy for the fish.
Filters can be broadly classified in two categories: biological and
mechanical. Biological filters, such as sponge and undergravel filters,
rely on using the natural aquatic cycle to keep the water clean.
Mechanical filters draw the water out of the tank and filter it through
several media, keeping the
water clean by removing small particles and chemical treatments. 	We
suggest you use a mechanical filter, such as one from the 	Marineland
Penguin or Emperor series. These relatively quiet filters hang on the
back of the aquarium, and require no more maintenance than occasionally
having to replace a filter cartridge. Some mechanical filters have a
feature called a
bio-wheel. A bio-wheel adds effective biological filtration to
any filter's capabilities, thus combining the best of both

3. Thermometer.  A thermometer, whether it's the kind that sits
in the water or adheres to the outside of the tank, will
provide accurate, up to date information about your tank's
water  temperature. Most native fish are able to withstand
a wide range of temperatures, preferring the water to be in the
lower to mid 70's F. Far North species may require cooler water,
while fish hailing from the southern states will be able to
handle higher temperatures.

4. Food.  Feeding your fish a variety of food is crucial
to maintaining their health and coloration. Many foods are
commercially available in dry, freeze-dried and frozen forms.
It is best to switch regular fish feedings between frozen and
dry foods, with regular supplements of fresh foods (i.e. live
worms, insects, shrimp, fish or fish meat, etc.) to the diet.

5. Cleaning gear.  Cleaning gear should consist of a clean
bucket used only for aquarium maintenance, a gravel vacuum with
siphon hose, and some sort of algae scraper. Never use detergents or
chemicals to clean your aquarium!

6. Substrate and decorations.  A properly decorated aquarium
will contribute to the fishes' health and add to the overall beauty
of the aquarium. The right combination of gravel, rocks and
plants will make your new fish feel right at home, and can  be
manipulated to imitate your local water systems. Care should  be
taken to avoid brightly colored or fluorescent gravel and
objects. These colors are not usually found in the fishes'
natural habitat and may cause them undue stress. Realistic
plastic plants are available in many sizes and shapes should
you choose not to use live ones. When decorating with rocks,
make sure they are free of sharp edges and metals. A good
source for natural gravel is the landscaping section of your
local Lowes, Home Depot, etc.

7. Water purifier chemicals.  Most of us do not have easy
access to clean natural water sources. Therefore, most aquariums
are filled with tap water that may contain several additives,
such as chlorine and chloramine, that are unhealthy for fish.
These chemicals can be removed by the addition of such products
as Amquel and Start Right, inexpensive aquarium water
treatments that are readily available at most pet stores and
aquarium product suppliers.

8. Net.  There may be times when you need to temporarily or
permanently remove one or more fish from your tank. Chances are 	high
that you will not be able to catch them with your bare
hands. Again, pet stores normally carry a variety of inexpensive
nets that you will find suitable for your aquarium.

TANK LOCATION.  Where you place your tank can have a great effect on its
continued success. Away from direct sunlight is best to avoid
temperature fluctuations and severe algal growth. Adopt-A-Tank projects
sponsored by public facilities may also want to avoid locations where
overly curious or boisterous children cause harm to themselves, the tank
or both.

TANK MAINTENANCE.  An established aquarium will require several easy,
regular maintenance steps to ensure the health of the fish. These steps
can be broken into the following categories:

1. Daily.  Once per day, the fish should be fed all they can
eat over a 5 to 10 minute period, ensuring all the fish are
eating. Care must be taken to avoid over-feeding, as the buildup
of uneaten food can quickly pollute the water. A minute or two should
be taken to observe the fish (for any signs of distress or
disease) and the tank (for external problems, temperature
changes, etc.). Early detection can go a long way in problem

2. Weekly.  Check the filter(s) for possible cleaning. Do not
rinse filter cartridges and other filter media in chlorinated water,
as beneficial bacteria may be killed off.

3. Monthly.  Though today's filters are excellent for
maintaining proper water conditions, they are still unable to remove
everything from the aquarium. Solid waste will gradually
accumulate in the gravel as will chemical waste levels in the
water. Thus, it is best to do a 25% water change, using a gravel
vacuum and a 5 gallon bucket, once a month. Never change all of
the water at once, as such a dramatic change in water chemistry
can shock and kill the fish. When adding new water, try to get
it as close as possible to the temperature of the remaining tank
water and add the appropriate amount of purifier to
remove unwanted chemicals.

Setting up your aquarium.

When done correctly, tank setup can be a relatively fun and hassle-free
process. The following steps provide a general guideline for tank setup
that is adhered to by most aquarium hobbyists.

1.  Make sure the inside surface of the aquarium and all
objects that will come into contact with the water are thoroughly
cleaned. NEVER use detergents or other cleaning chemicals for this
purpose! Hot water and untreated scrubbingpads should suffice. Gravel can
be rinsed through common
kitchen strainers or inside buckets.

2.  Check to ensure the tank is sitting squarely and securely
on the surface it is to be kept on, then add cleaned gravel. If an
undergravel filter is to be used, be sure to place it on the bottom of
the tank prior to adding the gravel.

3.  Fill the tank about half way with water. Once done, add decorations,
such as larger rocks and driftwood, that will not be disturbed by adding
the remaining water. Once the tank is filled, add the remaining

4.  Add hood, filtering and other equipment you may have. Once
the tank is set up, turn on all the equipment and let it run as if the
tank already had fish. Check everything occasionally to make sure it is
running properly.

5.  No matter how much you rinse the gravel, the newly filled
tank will be cloudy for several days. Chlorine and chloramine will also
remain in the water for up to 48 hours before dissipating completely. 
Allow the tank to run like this until the water clears. When it does, it
is ready for fish.

Stocking your aquarium.

Inside all aquariums, just as in all rivers and lakes, there is a
continuous biological cycle that works to keep the water clean.
Basically, several types of bacteria break down pollutants such as fish
waste and other decomposing material into harmless chemicals. In an
aquarium, the bacteria feeds on the fishes' waste and uneaten food, and
in the process keep the water clean enough for the fish to live in. How
well this cycle works depends largely in maintaining a balance between
the number of fish and the amount of water necessary to support the
bacteria that will clean up after them. Thus, the 1" of fish per gallon
of water rule gives a rough estimate on how to gauge the balance in your

When a tank is first set up, there are no bacteria to clean the water.
As the first fish are added, the amount of their waste products and
uneaten food in the water will begin to rise unchecked. Fortunately,
the necessary bacteria will soon begin to grow and filter the water.
This process, called cycling, may take up to 4 weeks to completion. If
too many fish are added to an aquarium at one time, their waste levels
may build up faster than the bacteria can grow to handle the load. Such
a situation may lead to the death of some or all of the fish. Therefore,
it is best to add only a few fish at a time. Two or three smaller fish
per 10 gallons of water are usually enough to get the cycle going. Once
the tank has gone through its initial cycle, it will be ready for the
addition of more inhabitants. Each addition of new fish will cause
another bout of cycling to occur, but with the established base of
initial bacteria, the new cycles will take less time to reach

Learning through the NFC.

As mentioned earlier, the NFC is comprised of many avid aquarists,
students, teachers, conservationists and concerned parents who have much
experience with keeping aquariums and who possess considerable knowledge
of what it takes to successfully keep them running. By signing up on one
or more of the various NFC email lists, you will be able to post
whatever questions you may have about the setup and keeping of fish
tanks and fish. You may be surprised at the number of enthusiastic
replies even the simplest of questions will receive! In addition to the
email lists, a large article database providing a wide range of
information on native fish keeping is available for all to use on the
NFC's web site.

Collecting Native Fish for Your Aquarium:
Discover the Finned Members of Your Community!

For many native fish enthusiasts, one of the biggest thrills of their
hobby is actually collecting their own specimens for the aquarium. Kids
especially seem to enjoy the process of catching fish from creeks and
ponds to be brought back to their aquarium. Collecting can be a fun
filled time of wonder and discovery as you learn not only what is
swimming in your community, but begin to realize how the rest of the
environment coexists with the aquatic creatures as well.

What to do before collecting.

To avoid any possible legal trouble, be sure to check with your state
fishing regulations to learn how, what and the numbers of fish you are
legally allowed to harvest. It may be that you only need a simple
fishing license to collect most of the native fish available in your

In addition to checking state regulations, it is advisable to request
permission from any land owners on whose property your intended
collection site(s) may be found on. It is only common courtesy to do
so, and may make all the difference between gaining access to the site
and being kicked out.

How to capture fish for your tank.

Several methods can be used to successfully capture the fish you are
seeking. Seines, dip nets, and minnow traps are the three most common
types of equipment used for collecting purposes, and may be found at
many bait shops and sporting goods stores. The sites and time limits
available to you for collecting may determine which equipment is best
suited for you. Seines are typically long sections of netting attached
to two poles, and are used by dragging them through wide stretches of
water. Dip nets are ideal for collecting in smaller areas, where rocks
or aquatic plants may be found in abundance. Minnow traps are merely
baited and placed in a spot where you believe smaller fish may be
located. In most cases, minnow traps only need to be checked every
couple of hours or so. If you are planning on collecting larger species;
such as sunfish, crappies, pickerel and bass; spending an afternoon with
a rod and reel may be all you need to do.

Clean, closeable containers such as buckets with tightly fitting lids or
plastic coolers are necessary when collecting for storage of caught
fish. Should your collecting take place over a lengthy period of time,
you will want to change the water in these containers frequently.
Another valuable piece of collecting equipment is some type of clear
container, such as a large glass jar, that specimens can be placed in
and inspected for desirability. A Peterson Field Guide is also
invaluable for identifying what you have caught.

Bringing the fish back to your tank.

Again, clean, closeable containers will be necessary for transporting
your newly caught specimens back to your tank. For short trips, simply
filling the containers with fresh water from the source the fish where
collected from will be the only step you need to take. For trips
spanning several hours, you will need to purchase a portable aerator
from a bait or sporting goods store. It is also advisable to bring
containers of fresh water for a mid-trip water change.

What can you do if you cannot catch the right fish?

If you find that you are unable to collect the species you are looking
for, or just do not have the time to try, there are a couple of options
still available to you. Local bait stores will often carry a variety of
minnows and shiners common to your area. After hearing your situation,
bait shop owners will likely be glad to allow you to inspect their
stock. In many cases, you will be able to identify several different
species of fish being sold under one common name.

Another source of native fish is the NFC itself.  With all the
collecting that is continually being done by NFC members, you may be
able to find some that will be able to provide you with the exact
species or suitable alternatives you are looking for.

Native Aquariums:
Learning Through Interaction

An Adopt-A-Tank project makes a wonderful learning tool for kids of all
ages. Whether it is in a classroom, church, house or public library, a
tank full of native North American fish will teach those involved not
only how to keep local species, but will serve as a focal point for
other areas of education as well.

What are some examples of the program's educational benefits?

Some of the educational topics related to an Adopt-A-Tank project are as

1. Fish keeping.  What it takes to successfully maintain an aquarium. How
fish interact with their environment and each other. How observing fish
in an aquarium can help those that remain in the wild.

2. America's diverse aquatic resources. What types of creatures are found
within America's water systems, from ponds to the Great Lakes. How these
creatures fill ecological niches within their particular environment.

3. The natural cycle.  How the biological cycle works to keep the
aquarium clean. How the same cycle works in all water systems, and what
happens when the cycle is disrupted through pollution and other works of

4. Awareness of endangered species. How many species of fish are native
to North American waters? How many are listed as threatened orendangered?
What it means for a species to be listed as such. Why it is important to
prevent extinction of any species. How can we practically prevent

5. Familiarity with the scientific method.  By studying their native
fish, kids involved with the Adopt-A-Tank Program may write a small paper
on their discoveries to be posted on the NFC web site (see Project
Recognition below). This process of observation and public sharing of
learned information illustrates how most scientists function today.

6. Responsibility.  Caring for an aquarium develops a good sense of
responsibility, both for the well being of the tank and the

7. Environmental awareness.  How important water systems and their
inhabitants are to all aspects of the environment, such as 	plants,
animals, birds and even people. The necessity of taking steps to ensure
the continued health of the environment.

8. Promotion of conservation efforts.  What can and has been done to
conserve our natural resources. How successful conservation practices
benefit both our natural resources and humanity.

9. Breeding and rearing of fish.  You could successfully breed a species.
Write up how you did it and have it published on the NFC website. This
will help everyone understand our fishes better.

One of the great qualities of NFC's Adopt-A-Tank Program is its
flexibility. Youth leaders and educators may shape the project any way
they wish to educate the kids. It is up to the kids and their leaders to
decide what they want to achieve by participating in the program. We are
here to help you help our native fishes. So please get involved.

To Join the NFC send 10$ to: NFC/16663 Iowa Ave East/St Paul MN 55106
you will receive our bi-monthly newsletter and other cool stuff. Also
check out our website at http://nativefish.interspeed.net
to contact the administrator of the Adopt a tank program send an email to
robertrice at juno_com or contact him at the NFC address above.

The Adopt a Tank Program is copyright to the Native Fish Conservancy and
MAY be copied in its entirety for non commercial use.

Project Recognition:
Sharing Your Adopt-A-Tank Experience

As the groups involved with the Adopt-A-Tank Program progress, they will
be encouraged to share their accomplishments with those who may be
interested and able to learn from them. The NFC has dedicated a portion
of its web site to giving the kids a forum for the sharing of such
knowledge, and to reward their efforts through public recognition.

How will project information be shared?

A web page titled "Kids' Corner" can be accessed through the NFC web
site or directly accessed at-


On this page, each project will be given space for 1 picture and project
reports written by the kids themselves. A chat room has been provided to
allow direct communication between program participants. An email list
has also been created to allow the kids to ask questions concerning
their project from each other and the knowledgeable members of the NFC.
To subscribe, go to the NFC Kids' Corner web page or send an email to-

conservationkids-subscribe at listbot_com

No subject or message is needed.

The NFC's Adopt-A-Tank Program is a wonderful way entertain and educate
kids of all ages. If you think it is something you would like to
personally participate or involve your youth group in, drop us a line.
We will go out of our way to provide you with all the help we are able.
On another note, should you choose to start a similar program of your
own, but without affiliation with the NFC, please feel free to use our
resources available on the net. We will deny nobody the opportunity to
learn about native fish.

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the NFC
Check out our Exotic Removal Program and Breeders Program at our website
website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/