Hey everyone, Justin here. Working on the sales floor, I answer questions from customers each day about testing equipment. which to use, how accurate and easy the kits are, and lots of other specifics. Today I’d like to shed a little light on testing and monitoring tools, especially the electronic monitoring tools available to aquarists. There are several methods of testing the water conditions in your aquarium, including titration tests and test strips. Less frequently used are the electronic monitors. Electronic Monitors are a different way of testing your aquarium parameters quickly, easily, and accurately. Instead of using a Titration kit (liquid) or paper strips (litmus), Electronic sensors can detect specific components of your aquarium water, such as: pH, Nitrate, Calcium, Salinity, and Dissolved oxygen, in a matter of seconds. If calibrated and cared for correctly, your monitor can provide constant testing with pinpoint accuracy, which can be a real benefit, especially in complicated systems. Large systems can be huge investments in livestock alone, and pristine water conditions protect your investment. Read More »
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For those of you who weren’t able to attend this year’s TFP/NCPARS Winter Frag Event, you missed a great time! Over a 6 hour period on that frigid Saturday (Jan. 30), our retail store was what can only be described as a reef geek’s dream. What spends most of the year as our pond fish and plant display room, became a sea of people, tables, and tanks. The event had over 400 attendees in the swap area, thousands of coral frags of all kinds, great deals from our manufacturers, and a whole lot of smiles. A big thanks and congratulations to everyone at NCPARS and the TFP staff who was involved organizing and working the event, even though it got a little crazy for a while, things went smoothly and we all had a great time. Read More »
Hello everyone! We are only ten days away from the second annual TFP/NCPARS Winter Frag Event, being held here at our retail store in Lancaster, PA . On Saturday January 30th our store will be invaded by coral reef enthusiast from all over the northeast, we are looking forward to having a great time, and a great turn out. Last years event was a blast, everyone had a great time, we think this year will be even better. The event is open to anyone who wants to attend, there will be an admission charge to enter the frag swap market area, and have access to the special speaker presentations, and Raffles. Visit Fragswapper.com to pre-register and get more information. Pre-registration is not required. Whether your just starting out in the reef hobby or you’ve been collecting for years, you may find something awesome to take home to your tank. There should be in excess of 1,000 frags available between the swap and TFP’s own stock! Read More »
Hello, Patty here. Everyone has heard the old saying “you are what you eat” and, when considering your diet, we all know which foods we’re supposed to eat (not that we always do) to keep our bodies happy and live long and healthy lives. The same goes for our pets; even our fish! Just as we supplement and vary the diets of dogs, cats, and other pets, it is important to vary the foods we give our fish, so that they can develop to their full potential with regards to color and size and so they can get nutrition necessary for breeding, fighting parasites and diseases, and for looking their best for years in your aquarium.
Flake food is a staple
There is a plethora of foods in the market today for feeding aquarium fish. Most of the foods aquarists are accustomed to are in flake, pellet or granule form. These foods are the staple diet most people feed their fish as they are economical, well preserved, easy to store and convenient to feed. They are formulated with ingredients like fish meal, wheat flour, and a laundry list of other ingredients including added colors and vitamins to make up for the natural nutrients lost in the preparation of these foods. These foods are often sold as complete diets, and will keep fish alive and well-colored, but may ultimately be lacking. Kind of like one of us eating ramen noodles or some similar packaged food, every meal of every day.
Fresh is best, Frozen is still better
So what do you do if you want to give your fish a diet upgrade? There are very few fresh or live fish foods available to consumers, but earthworms, blackworms, ghost shrimp and some others can be a nice treat for some fish if you can find them. A terrific alternative is choosing frozen foods and formulas to supplement the flake food regimen several times through the week. These foods are harvested and frozen at the peak of freshness, preserving the naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. Many of these foods are (or are very similar to) foods that the fish in your aquarium would seek out in their natural environment. Today, there are varieties of frozen foods available to suit the needs of just about any type of fish you keep. These high-quality, high-protein food items increase the vitality and color of your fish, and allow you to see the fish develop and thrive.
Many of the frozen foods on the market are aimed at marine fish and corals, but not exclusively. There are brine shrimp, mysis, plankton, baby brine shrimp, clam, mussel, and more which give you lots of options for variety and each with its own benefits. Baby Brine, for example are very tiny but high in nutrition and ideal for fish fry and filter feeding inverts and corals, while clam, mussel, and squid come in larger pieces for larger fish. Whole silversides and sand eels are great for groupers, eels and other larger fish with big appetites!
Freshwater options include bloodworms, glass worms, and beef heart, though mysis shrimp, plankton and brine may also be fed.
There are also several formula foods available, which are combinations of these proteins which may be suspended in a gel with other foods such as spirulina, sponge or other specialty food bits to enhance the diets of specialty feeders like marine angels and omnivores. Consider the fish you’re keeping and what they might eat on the reef or in the river bed to select what’s best.
Some Things About Frozen Foods
Frozen foods are available for purchase online or in retail stores. Being frozen, these foods are shipped with dry ice to keep them in that state. The foods must be thawed before feeding, but this is easy as the foods are usually in cube serving form or in thin flat packs that can easily portioned and the appropriate portion snapped off from the body of the pack. The food portions can be placed in a small vessel of cool water (never warm or hot water as it will cook the food and break down the nutrients) and will be thawed in minutes and ready to feed. You may even choose to soak frozen foods in additional vitamin supplements like garlic extract or Selcon as they thaw to enhance them even more.
Frozen foods may be a bit more expensive and perishable, but the benefits to the food will outweigh the disadvantages. Give it a try – your fish will love you for it!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about feeding frozen foods or feeding fish in general let us know!
Until Next Time,
Hey, Eileen here. Ever have a certain look or item in mind for your home or wardrobe or aquarium, and were not able to find just what you wanted? Ever decide to just make it instead? Despite the huge selection of aquarium ornaments on the market today, this DIY approach is what many aquarists are beginning to turn to when the ornaments in the stores just aren’t personal enough for their own unique tanks. So, how can you get in on the action to make your tank truly your own? Here are a few tips to making your own aquarium ornaments or using non-aquarium items to personalize your aquarium.
Silicone Sealant is Your Friend
Silicone aquarium sealant can be found in almost any fish store and is usually available in clear or black. Sealants designed for aquariums are safe for fish and aquarium tankmates when fully cured, but stay away from other sealants like those used for bathroom or hardware applications. You can use sealants to make caves from pieces of rock or rubble, glue shells, stones or other decorations together, or even to cover things like PVC or plastic “caves” with substrate or rocks to form a more natural-looking hideaway. Note: The tank in these photos has a custom background created by arranging and attaching layered slate with black silicone. The effect of the rock wall is rather permanent, but impressive as it adds dimension. This background was applied before the tank was set-up.
Think Outside the Box
Most rigid plastic toys, ornaments and figurines are safe for aquariums as long as they are not painted and do not have any sticker decals on them. Make sure the object is well-cleaned and any stickers or adhesives are completely removed. If you aren’t sure if it is painted or printed, try soaking it in water for awhile, then try to scrape the color off with your fingernail. If it comes off, it isn’t safe for your aquarium. You’ll also want to make sure any small pieces are removed or firmly attached with an adhesive like silicone sealants, and make sure nothing is small enough for your fish to eat.
A lot of ceramics and pottery like coffee mugs and flower pots are generally safe for aquariums, too. This is a great way to get your companies logo in that aquarium you have set up in the lobby! If a mug or plate or bowl is safe for food use, you can generally use it in your aquarium. Decorative pots that are only partially glazed or have fragile artistic glazes are not safe enough for aquariums. To see if an object will last in your aquarium, you can soak it for a few weeks in water that is the same conditions as your aquarium (or better yet, is at the extremes of your aquarium as far as temperature and pH). If it is unchanged in color, texture and strength at the end of a couple months, it should be safe to use as a decoration. Completely unglazed terracotta pottery is also perfectly suitable for aquariums. These items can make excellent caves and breeding shelters for fish like cichlids and gobies.
Some of the only artifacts leftover from ancient shipwrecks are pottery and glassware. It may look different and become completely encrusted with corals or algaes – especially in saltwater aquariums, a problem all of these ornament ideas – but glass is very durable (which is probably why most aquariums are made from it as well). Decorative glass bottles can be found in craft and antique stores and even very well-cleaned beer, wine and condiment bottles can be made into aquarium décor! As with the other materials listed, you’ll want to make sure there are no labels or adhesives left on the glass or bottles you decide to use and the glass should not be painted – if the glass is colored, make sure it is the glass itself that is colored, not a glaze or paint over it. You can also fill a light-colored bottle with small objects, ornaments, beads or substrates and seal the top closed to form a decorative glass “bubble” within your tank.
Cues from Nature: the Good and the Bad
Using natural items can be good and bad. In general, avoid the temptation to use something you’ve picked up off the ground since it is difficult to tell what chemicals or foreign substances may have leeched into it. Things like seashells and coral skeletons that can be cleaned VERY, VERY thoroughly in very hot water are usually safe, but avoid organic matter like starfish or wood that can decompose when put back into the water of your aquarium. Wood ornaments created for aquariums are usually safe for freshwater aquariums since they’ve already been cleaned and treated, but wood from the forest behind your house or that you’ve found at the shore is usually not a good addition to a home aquarium. If you aren’t sure if an object like a shell will affect your water quality if it is submerged, soak it in water with similar conditions to your tank and monitor the changes in color, smell, and chemistry of the water over a few weeks. Most shells are not suitable for freshwater aquariums except african cichlid or brackish set-ups, as they may raise your pH.
The Don’ts and Disclaimers
Of course, there are always disclaimers. These tips are just to give you an idea and starting point for your own creativity. Always make sure any non-aquarium ornaments you re-purpose for your aquarium are very clean and are safe for your fish, inverts and water chemistry before adding them to your aquarium, especially in extreme aquarium conditions like saltwater aquarium, low pH/acidic aquariums, high temperatures and sensitive or very aggressive animals. Make sure all objects are free from chemicals and sharp edges are sanded down or covered with silicone to avoid injuries to yourself or your aquarium residents. When in doubt, feel free to ask and we’ll be happy to help you figure out if your new decorating idea is a safe one!
These are just a few ideas. Be creative and let your personality shine through into your aquarium. And, don’t forget to show us the pictures of your new, unique aquarium!