Home | Common Aquarium Questions

Category Archives: Common Aquarium Questions

Feed Subscription

Keeping Finding Dory Characters in the Home Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium hobby has seen huge blooms after the release of Disney’s “Finding Nemo” in 2003 and again with “Finding Dory” in 2016. Many movie-goers want to take a real live Nemo or Dory home for their own aquarium but don’t realize what that actually involves. So, what do you need to take your favorite animated fish home without becoming a Darla?

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The fish and other sea creatures featured in these movies are, first and foremost, saltwater animals. That means they need a saltwater aquarium. This isn’t as easy as putting some table salt in your home aquarium. The water has to be mixed to the correct levels (Specific Gravity 1.020-1.024) in a separate container before being added to the aquarium. Most of these creatures are also tropical, which means the tank needs a heater to maintain warm water temperatures (75-80 degrees F). The décor of saltwater tanks is usually different than freshwater as well; unfortunately, ornaments like Mount Wannahockaloogie just don’t work very well in saltwater aquariums. Most saltwater aquariums use natural crushed coral substrates and live rock although non-animated decorative ornaments are usually safe. For more information of basic aquarium care, visit our Saltwater Aquarium Basics Guide.
So what about the fish and other animals? Some of the movies’ characters are obviously impossible and even illegal to keep in home aquariums. Others are very difficult while some are very common and easy for hobbyists to care for. We are only going to discuss those characters here that are within the scope of our hobby.
( ❶ “Finding Nemo”, ❷ “Finding Dory”)


Hippo Tang (Paracanthus hepatus)

Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

“Dory” and her parents: Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) ❶ ❷

Max Size: 12”
Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
The Hippo Tang is a fairly delicate fish with a weak immune system. They also grow too large for many aquariums. Although tempting, only experienced aquarists with larger, established aquariums should attempt this fish. Like other tangs, Hippo Tang can become very territorial and only one should be kept per tank.

For more information on keeping Hippo Tangs, visit our Tangs & Surgeonfish Care Guide. 

“Nemo” and “Marlin”: Clownfish (probably Amphiprion ocellaris) ❶ ❷

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Max size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
We could debate about exactly which kind of clownfish are featured in these movies, but they are probably Ocellaris Clownfish. Percula Clownfish are also very similar in care and appearance (they just develop thicker black margins). Clownfish like these are some of the easiest saltwater fish to keep and can be kept in much smaller aquariums than many of their costars. Captive-bred fish are much hardier and better for the environement than their wild counterparts. Their anemone home is much more delicate however and has some much more intensive requirements. Most clownfish – especially captive-bred – don’t need an anemone to be happy and healthy.

For more information on keeping Clownfish, visit our Clownfish Care Guide and Clownfish and Anemone Preference Guide.


Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

“Hank”: Octopus (Octopus sp.)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons for small species
Difficulty: High
Octopus are very specialized and difficult to care for and need a specially built aquarium to keep them from escaping like Hank so often does in “Finding Dory”. They will also eat almost any tankmates they are kept with. Only expert aquarists should attempt an octopus.


“Gill”: Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Max Size: 7”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: High
Although not as delicate now as they were even when “Finding Nemo” was first released, Moorish Idols are still difficult to maintain for long. It is difficult to keep these fish healthy through collection and it can be tricky to get them to eat in home aquariums. It is best to stick with hardier lookalikes like the Longfin Bannerfish (Heniochus sp.) for new or novice aquarists.


Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

“Bloat”: Porcupine Puffer (Diodon holocanthus)

Max Size: 20”
Minimum Tank Size: 200 gallons
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Although these puffers are usually only a few inches in length when they are sold for aquariums, they can grow to almost 2 feet long! Puffers also have very strong beak-like teeth and can crush through shells. Unfortunately, most of his tankmates in Dr. Sherman’s office wouldn’t have survived being kept with a puffer. Puffers “blow up” as a stress reaction and, while comical to us, this is very stressful and even dangerous to the puffer and should NEVER be provoked for any pufferfish.


“Peach”: Starfish

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: Depends on species
Difficulty: usually Easy
It is difficult to tell exactly what kind of starfish Peach is but most of the thick-bodied starfish like her are fairly easy. However, most of these also eat snails and other inverts so use caution when choosing your starfish and its tankmates. They are sensitive to water quality and changes in water quality so make sure the tank stays clean and stable.


Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

“Gurgle”: Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Max Size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Royal Grammas are colorful fish found in the Caribbean and western Atlantic Ocean, unlike the Pacific homes of most of the other fish in the movies. They are hardy and easy to keep, but can be territorial. Only keep one basslet in the aquarium unless it is very large with lots of rockwork.


“Bubbles”: Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Max Size: 8”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Yellow Tangs like Bubbles were some of the first to be kept by home aquarists and are still some of the most popular. They are hardier than tangs like the “Dory” Hippo Tang but are also more aggressive. Once they establish a territory, they will not tolerate other tangs – or possibly even any other fish – entering it. Only keep in a large tank without any other closely-related tangs or closely-colored fish.


4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

“Deb”: 4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Damsels like Deb are some of the hardiest and easiest saltwater fish to keep. They are usually recommended as the first fish for any saltwater hobbyists to attempt. Most damsels can get very territorial however so make sure the tank isn’t overcrowded and there is plenty of territory for these fish. The 4-stripe Damsel specifically is one of the milder-tempered of all damselfish.


“Jacques”: Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Like Jacques, shrimp like these will clean parasites and dead scales off of other fish, but they will also eat almost any other food they are given. They are some of the easiest shrimp to keep but, like the starfish, need stable and pristine water quality. Shrimp molt their shell to grow so it is common to find an empty shell every now and then. Don’t keep with predatory fish (like pufferfish, for example) as shrimp are often easy prey.


Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

“Sheldon”: Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.) ❶❷

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: at least 30 gallons for most species
Difficulty: Moderate to High
Seahorses are easy now than years ago and captive-bred seahorses are becoming more and more available. They are still very delicate though and keeping them with any other tankmates is difficult. It is best to keep them in a seahorse-only tank and by advanced aquarists only.


“Tad”: Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus) ❶❷

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Max Size: 9:
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
Because of their very thin “beaks”, it can be difficult to get these fish to eat in home aquariums. They need small food items at least once or twice a day. They may also eat some corals as well as the tubed feet from starfish and sea urchins.

These characters are just a few of the sea creatures that Disney’s revolutionary “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” franchises have brought to the forefront of the both the aquarium hobby and pop culture, but they are the most suitable for aquarium life. If you choose to bring any of these movie stars into your home, choose carefully so you can give them the best home possible. Remember, as Bruce and his crew have taught us, “Fish are friends”!
© “Finding Nemo”, “Finding Dory” and all the characters within are created by and property of The Walt Disney Company.

Keeping Tropical Fish in Outside Ponds for the Summer

Eureka red kept in pond Hey there!  This week I wanted to talk about something a little different than my usual cichlid blog. I wanted to share some tips on how you can develop spectacular color on tropical fish in a way you may have never considered.

A few years ago, we moved into a house that had a small pond in the front yard. It was one of those rigid, preformed round ponds about 15 inches deep with a  50 to 80 gallon capacity. We kept a few goldfish in there the first year. They grew and made it through the winter just fine as we expected.

The following Spring, I got hold of some Astatotilapia aneocolor from Lake Victoria, 2 males 3 females to be exact. I was told by the previous keeper that they were aggressive, so I put them in a 55 gallon. I figured that would be plenty of space, since they were only 2.5 inch fish, and that they would leave each other alone for the time being.

Boy, was I wrong. One of the males showed his dominance within 2 hours of being added to the tank, and no matter what I did he couldn’t be swayed. I moved decorations around, gave him a time out for a week in a net breeder, and  I even put him into an aquarium with four 3 inch Black Belt Cichlids hoping he would be intimidated into submission. He went nuts in that tank, too, and started beating up the Black Belts, so back into the original tank he went. He quickly went back to his old ways, dominating and terrorizing the other male. He finally ripped out male no. 2’s right eye.

The Great Outdoors

I wasn’t sure what I could do for him. Then it occurred to me that I did have another place for him to go. The temps were high enough outside, so why not? I decided to relocate One Eye to the pond outside to give him a chance to recover. I watched to make sure that the other fish (goldfish) didn’t bother him and they didn’t. In fact, by the end of the week ol’ One Eye was the sole proprietor of the pond.

For the next few weeks, he ate well and still came up to the surface to see who was around the pond when I went to feed. I only had a little internal filter system on the pond, and soon the water started turning green. Before long I could barely see One Eye to see his condition, but i knew he was still alive and growing, possibly even larger than the bully inside. He was eating well, besides my offerings he ate insects that fell into the pond, and I also noticed he was scraping algae off the sides.

Meanwhile the dominant male in the 55 was attaining his astounding breeding colors. He was red on top half of his body and yellow on the bottom half with black fins.

The nights started to get into the mid 60’s, so it was time to bring in ol’ One Eye. When I netted him out I was shocked to see that he was an inch and a half larger than my dominant male and his colors were unbelievable! He had a deep maroon upper half and the bottom half was gold…I kid you not. I mean it was so vibrant that I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to other fish from my collection if they had the same conditions. The following Spring, I upgraded the filter setup to an internal mag drive pump pushing into a Fluval 403 canister filter with the return line feeding a waterfall. I started keeping Albino Eureka Red Peacocks outside in that pond after the upgrade. You can see the results in my photo (top photo, sorry it’s a little blurry).

There is no match for the magic of natural sunlight and the varied diet tropicals can get outside. A friend of mine kept Red Terrors outside, where they bred for him through the season. Summer vacation outside isn’t just for cichlids, it can also be done with platies, swordtails, guppies and pretty much anything tropical if you have a place for them. Even small patio ponds could be populated with livebearers or tetras. Imagine a school of Cardinal Tetras soaking up those sun rays! Any pond will do as long as it doesn’t get too hot or too cold, and as long the fish have a little cover to protect them from would be predators like herons.

It’s a Jungle Out There

While the benefits are great, there are also some cautions to consider. This time I’d like to talk about some of the dangers and pests that may wreak havoc on our poor little fishies.

I was lucky not to have my pond visited by pests, but local stray cats, opossums, raccoons, snakes or predatory birds that may decide to visit your pond at any time.  Even bugs like dragonfly nymphs can prey on young and small fish. Ample water movement and surface ripples are usually enough to deter them, but more effort may be needed to deter larger predators. There are some easy ways that you can help to protect your fish while they enjoy their outdoor summer vacation. Personally, I would recommend the live plants. You can use floating foliage like water lilies, duck weed or hyacinths for cover and protection for your fish. Young fish will also hide in the roots and feed on the small bugs that live in the roots. Another solution is the use of pond netting. The netting can prevent many predators from snatching your fish out of the water. Not very aesthetic, but effective.

Pesticides and other contaminants may pose a hazard in an outdoor environment. Toxins can be washed into a pond during heavy downpours or may be blown into the Green Heronwater.  The rish is small as long as you stay aware when applying such products…something to keep in mind. Even the rain itself can be a danger to your fish. Acidic rain can drive your ph to low levels if you have a low kh. Depending on the species you’re keeping, such fluctuations can wipe fish out quickly.  I was able to keep the kh high and the ph stable with weekly buffered water changes so thi swas never a problem in my experiences.

Closing Time

Cool temps are the other concern. It’s important to know when to bring them in. For me, when night temperatures start dipping below 75 F, I know it’s time to bring them back to the tank. You may notice the fish becoming lethargic, and some may even die if you don’t pay close attention at the end of summer. I recommend acclimating them slowly back to indoor temperatures. If the filter running the pond is a canister filter, I would recommend keeping it running on the main tank. Clean it out before bringing it inside, but you’ll be supplying an established filter/biological for your indoor tank, and you don’t have to wait for the whole cycling process. We drain the pond each year and look for babies. You can then either store it till the following year or couple of set it back up in the house for the winter.

I hope this inspires someone else to try some tropicals outside. You wont regret it. Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help you out.

Until next time,


More Decoration DIY: Materials and Aquarium Suitability

The first two installations of our DIY blog series – “Adding a Personal Touch to You Aquarium Decor” and “Aquarium Decoration Ideas – Fish Bowl Designs & DIY” – seem to have gotten your creative juices flowing so we’re back with another entry. The most frequent questions we’ve gotten since then have been about the materials that you are looking to put into your aquarium so we’re going to break down some of the most popular materials that you’ve all asked us about. Remember, these are just some basic guidelines and you may need to test the piece you’re trying to use.



  • Choosing the right glue or adhesive for your purpose can make or break a project.

    Choosing the right glue or adhesive for your purpose can make or break a project.

    Cyanoacrylate Glue (“Reef Glue”, “Krazy Glue”, “Super Glue”) – These glues are some of the most common, especially among aquarists and reef hobbyists. They are effective with many different types of materials and are very strong, particularly when bonding plastic materials. They work well with reattaching coral frags that may have dislodged or fixing ornaments and they cure quickly. Most of them tend to turn milky-white if they are put into the water while the glue is still wet but they are otherwise safe for lots of applications.

  •  Silicone Sealant – Silicone sealants are usually used to fix the seams of an aquarium but they can also be used in assembling ornaments and pieces within the aquarium. It is usually available in black or “clear” (usually more milky blue-white, in my experience) and can be thicker that cyanoacrylate glue, but it is durable and more flexible once cured. Be sure to read the directions to make it easier to use and cure it fully before using it in your aquarium.
  • Epoxy – Epoxy is a two-part adhesive that needs to be mixed together to activate. Underwater epoxies usually look like a putty with an outer coating over a contrasting center and are commonly found in white or a coralline-algae-colored purple. These epoxies are more cement-like than other adhesives and are good for creating rockwork formations but not as effective for surfaces that need a thinner, more transparent adhesive. Avoid using epoxies that aren’t designed for underwater use or with toxic materials, especially before the epoxy has fully cured.
  • Hot Glue Guns – Hot glue guns are arts-and-crafts staples but are also surprisingly effective in aquariums, most especially in freshwater tanks. For quick fixes like re-attaching an artificial plant that may have become detached from a base, they are the easiest to use and are non-toxic and ready to use soon after applying. Make sure the pieces are completely dry and clean and avoid using this glue in higher-temperature tanks.
  • Water-soluble glues – For obvious reasons, never use water-soluble glues like white craft glue in aquariums. They will never cure and will affect the water quality.




Nail polish is an easy and inexpensive solution for touch-ups and quick fixes.

  • Clear-coats – Clear-coat paints and “sealers” were some of the most popular materials in the questions we’ve received. We’ve received many questions on what kind of clear sealers an aquarists can use to cover an unsafe material and make it suitable for use in a tank. There are clear spraypaints and other paints that can be used to coat an ornament or other piece but none of these can guarantee safety. The smallest crack or opening in clearcoat can allow water in and to the surface underneath. Once the water has started to get in, it will continue to soak in and get below the clearcoat. None of these clearcoats can prevent metal from corroding or minerals from dissolving. If something isn’t safe for your tank to begin with, a clearcoat isn’t going to make it safe. Clearcoats are available in enamel or acrylic just like the paints we’ll discuss next…
  • Enamel – In my opinion, enamel paints are some of the most durable for underwater use once they are cured. Small jars can be found in many different colors in craft and hobby stores with the model-building supplies. Even most nail polishes are enamel; we’ve used nail polish to create numbered frag plugs in our retail store for years. Clear nail polish can be used for quick touchups as well. Enamel spray paints are good for quick coverage for ornaments or for backgrounds on the outside of tanks. For any form of enamel paint, make sure it is fully dried and cured before using it in your tank; “dry to the touch” does not necessarily mean it is cured. If the directions on the paint say to allow it to cure for several days, follow those instructions.
  •  Acrylic – Acrylic paint is a water-soluble paint but can be fairly water-resistant once it is cured. These paints have some mixed results among hobbyists. I prefer to keep acrylic out of the tank itself; acrylic spraypaints can be effective backgrounds on the tank but may not hold up as well in the tank and constantly underwater. The most popular of the “acrylic” paints for use in aquariums is Krylon Fusion paints. These paints are usually described as “acrylic alkyd enamels” and they share characteristics of enamels and acrylics. Many aquarists use these paints with good results, especially over plastics, but they are less effective on glass surfaces where many aquarists see the paint peeling or flaking off.



Aquarium decorations are where you can really let your creative juices start flowing! From fishing lures and hockey pucks to Eiffel Towers and zombies, we’ve gotten lots of questions about new pieces you all have been considering for your aquariums. While I obviously cant cover every single object here, here are a few of the most common materials we’ve been seeing you consider and how suitable (or otherwise) they may be for your aquarium.

    • Metal – Avoid it. Sure, you can try covering it up to protect it from the water, but as we’ve discussed, any small moisture seeping to the metal can start affecting your tank. At best, it will likely have some surface corrosion. At worst, it can leach very harmful chemicals into your water and even conduct electricity. To be safe, look elsewhere for a decoration if the object you are considering is made from or has any pieces of any type of metal.
      Coral skeletons may be fine in some tanks but can affect the water quality in others.

      Coral skeletons may be fine in some tanks but can affect the water quality in others.

    •  Natural/organic material – Use caution. This is a definite grey area. Some materials may be safe for some types of systems but others will decompose or severely affect the water quality by changing the pH or hardness. Also, where you are getting these things from can have a serious impact. Avoid using anything that you may have scavenged from nature (the beach, the forest, etc) since anything that the piece has come into contact with will go into your tank, including possibly harmful chemicals like pesticides. As a rule of thumb, it is also best to avoid putting anything natural into a very different environment than where it came from. For example, adding marine shells or corals to a freshwater tank isn’t safe and wood from the forest won’t usually hold up underwater.
    •  Rocks/Minerals – This depending entirely on what rock or mineral you are considering. Some are safe, others will affect the water quality. You can try keeping the piece you are considering in a container of your tankwater for at least a few days and monitor the water chemistry to make sure everything is remaining stable. Most rocks that affect water quality contain calcium carbonate which will dissolve at a low pH, causing the hardness to rise and pH to then increase. These rocks are usually from the ocean in origin. If you suspect this, you can try sprinkling a few drops of vinegar on your rock. If it has calcium carbonate, you’ll see it start to fizz up and dissolve. You would NOT want to addthis rock to a freshwater tank where the pH will be below around 8.0.
    •  Glass – Plain glass is fine in an aquarium. Colored glass is usually safe too, as long as it is the glass itself that is colored. The risky part comes with glass that is painted or glazed. When constantly submerged, this coloring can start coming off or be very easy to scrape off and may be harmful to the livestock at that point. Most clear-coats like we discussed above don’t bond very well with glass and may not be enough to make the piece safe for the tank. Use caution with any colored pieces and test, test, test before adding it to a tank with livestock! Most plain, clear glass is safe though and can you can make some very interesting betta bowls from fun vases and glass containers found at craft stores!
Glass is durable and lasts hundreds of years underwater so it is usually suitable as an aquarium decoration.

Glass is durable and lasts hundreds of years underwater so it is usually suitable as an aquarium decoration.

  •  Dishware and Pottery (mugs, plates, bowls, etc) – These pieces are usually safe. As a general rule of thumb, if the mog/bowl/plate/etc is dishwasher-safe, it is probably aquarium-safe. A mug with a company logo can make a great aquarium decoration in your lobby, and simple plates and bowls can make good ledges and caves (especially in a pinch). If the piece ever actually has been in a dishwasher or in dish soap, make sure it is well-rinsed and clean of any soap or food residue before adding it to an aquarium. The same rules go for pottery as well. Some unglazed pottery like terracotta pots can be safe in an aquarium and make for good breeding caves, but if they’ve housed a plant at any time, they could have absorbed fertilizers or other chemicals. If this is the case, it would be best to use a clean, new pot than repurposing one. Some decorative glazes may also not be durable enough to handle aquarium conditions. When in doubt, leave it out!
  •  Plastic and Rubber – In general, safe!! Plain colored plastics are inert and can make excellent decorations! Toys like Lego building blocks can be great, customizable centerpieces to a tank but only use

    Dishware like mugs can be excellent personal touches for most aquariums, and a good way to get your company’s logo in the tank!

    pieces free from decals and decorations that may soften and break up underwater. The same goes for hard rubber. The hockey fan in me is dying to set up a tank with a hockey puck pyramid and hockey puck archways…but again, just use plain pieces without decals or decorations.

  •  Polyresin – A number of questions that we received about possible ornaments were for figurines made from polyresin. Polyresin is, in itself, inert and safe for most tanks. The paint and embellishment used on it may not be. You can experiment with water identical to your tank conditions or try contacting the manufacturer of the piece to see if they can give you some more information. But, once again, when in doubt, leave it out!
  •  Stickers or decals – When decorating your tank, don’t be afraid to use all of the surfaces available to you! Throughout these decoartion ideas, I’ve said to avoid using anything with decals or decorations and this is true….underwater. Don’t be afraid to use vinyl cutouts, stickers, window clings or other stick-ons on the outside of the tank. You can add dimension to the decor by using the front, background or sides for images that you can’t get on the pieces inside the tank.

I hope this helps you clear up some DIY confusion and gives you some more ideas of pieces that you can (and can’t) use to decorate your aquarium. If you’ve come up with your own creative DIY aquarium ornament, we’d love to see it!

Visit the new and improved Aquatic Article Archive on ThatPetPlace.com!

The Aquatic Article Archive on our website has had a renovation over the past couple of weeks so if you haven’t visited for awhile, head over to ThatPetPlace.com and check it out. We’ve reorganized the categories to make articles easier to find and added some of your favorite posts from this blog to the archive as well. Now, you can browse the following Aquatic Article Archive categories:

Aquatic Article Archive General Care

An excerpt from the General Care section

General Care

This section has basic aquarium information for many different types of aquariums. You’ll also find information on some of the basic principles of aquarium-keeping like stocking guidelines, water testing, the Nitrogen Cycle and more. This is a good place to start with basic questions on how to set up a new aquarium or before venturing into a new aspect of the hobby. Important steps when adding new animals to your tank – Acclimation Procedures and Quarantine Tanks – are also explained here.


Aquatic Article Archive Troubleshooting

An excerpt from the Aquarium Troubleshooting section

Aquarium Troubleshooting

The Aquarium Troubleshooting section is a go-to location for all issues and problems that an aquarist might face. This includes an overview on Common Fish Diseases, a quick reference chart of Aquarium Medications and the more comprehensive overviews on Active Ingredients in medications from this blog. It also includes other articles about common aquarium problems.



Aquatic Article Archive Filter Guides

The Aquarium Filter Guides section

Aquarium Filter Guides

This section includes basics on all different kinds of filtration that an aquarists has to choose from. Visit here to get more information on each kind of filter to help you determine which is best for your tank and the best way to maintain the filter and media you choose.





Aquatic Article Archive Lighting Guides

The Aquarium Lighting Guides section

Aquarium Lighting Guides

Like aquarium filters, choosing aquarium lighting can be a daunting task. The Aquarium Lighting Guides section has Aquarium Lighting Charts to help you choose the best fixture for a Freshwater Fish-Only Tank, Freshwater Planted Tank, Saltwater Fish-Only Tank or a Saltwater Reef Tank. It also includes information on each types of lighting available.


Aquatic Article Archive Other Equipment Guides

The Other Equipment Guides section

Other Equipment Guides

Equipment other than lighting and filters are included in this section. This includes, air pumps, chillers, heater, salt mix and protein skimmers.




Aquatic Article Archive Compatibility Charts

The Aquarium Compatibility Charts section

Compatibility Charts

Our Compatibility Charts for aquarium livestock are all found in one place in the Compatiblity Charts section. These charts can help you make educated decisions on what livestock can go together in your tank. Separate charts can be found here for Marine Animals and for Freshwater & Brackish Fish. Our much-requested African Cichlid Compatibility Chart is located here as well.


Aquatic Article Archive Live Plants Planted Aquarium

The Live Plants & Planted Aquariums section

Live Plants & Planted Aquariums

All things planted are included here. These articles include basics tips for live plants, supplies you’ll need for your planted tank, the most important nutrients for live plants and using Carbon Dioxide for plant health. Our popular blog on Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails is found here too.


Aquatic Article Archive Freshwater Fish Guides

An excerpt from the Freshwater Fish Care Guides section

Freshwater Fish Care Guides

This section includes over twenty care guides for many different groups of freshwater fish common in the aquarium hobby. All of these care guides were written by our marine biologist and aquatic science staff and have been popular handouts in our retail store at the Fish Room Education Center.


Aquatic Article Archive Saltwater Fish Guides

An excerpt from the Saltwater Fish Care Guides section

Saltwater Fish Care Guides

Over two dozen of our popular Saltwater Fish Care Guides are found here. Like our Freshwater Fish Care Guides, these were all written by our experts and are part of the Education Center in our retail store Fish Room. These care guides are a good place to start for basic information on lots of groups of fish, including care, feeding, compatibility, water parameters and behavioral information.


Aquatic Article Archive Coral and Invert Guides

An excerpt from the Coral & Invertebrate Care Guides section

Coral & Invertebrate Care Guides

This section is the home of the care guides available for many different saltwater invertebrates, including some corals. These care guides include specialty inverts like Mantis Shrimp and Pistol Shrimp as well as reef animals like Maxima, Squamosa, Derasa and Crocea Clams.




Are there any other articles you’d like to see here on our blog or in our Aquatic Article Archive? Let us know what you’d like to see and we’ll do our best to cover any topics you’d like to learn more about!

Aquatic Science Fair Projects for Aquarium Lovers

With the new school year getting underway, it’ll only be a matter of time before the first science fairs and lab experiments start up. We get lots of students visiting or contacting us in search of ideas and test subjects for project ranging from the simple to the complex so I thought I’d share some tips and some of our favorite ideas for easy (and affordable) aquatic science fair projects for students of all levels.


Before you begin…

Before you start any experiment or project involving live plants or animals, it is important to make sure you are prepared for the maintenance, care and cost of the experiment and livestock they are taking on. We’ve had many students that have a great idea for a project involving crabs, jellyfish, “Nemo” clownfish or other animals but don’t realize how much work and supplies are going to be needed to keep these animals healthy. They are also a commitment after the experiment is done; fish aren’t disposable and you have to be ready for them to go from Test Subject to Pet at the end of the project. Some experiments also require multiple subject that each need their own setup and supplies.


Time is another important factor to consider with these projects. Many experiments involving fish and plants are going to take some time before you will really start to see results like growth or changes to color or behavior. It can take at least a few weeks to reach any conclusions so if this is a last-minute project, you might be better off heading in another direction.

What do you want to know?

The hypothesis of an experiment is the question you are trying to answer or what you are trying to prove or study. Depending on your grade level, this might be observing an environment or behavior or it might be testing a number of variables against a control. If one of the ideas here intrigues you but you aren’t sure where to go with it, ask your teacher or let us know and we might be able to help point you in a direction.


The project ideas here are mainly freshwater. Saltwater science fair projects are definitely possible, but they are going to be more difficult and expensive. Saltwater aquariums have a lot more factors than freshwater and need more equipment and maintenance to keep them healthy. If you already have a saltwater aquarium, you may be able to adapt one of these ideas to it or come up with your own but it may be easier to stick with a freshwater experiment if you don’t already have some saltwater experience.

Some Aquatic Science Project Ideas

Bettas and Aquatic Science Fair Projects

A male Veiltail Betta

The Betta (“Siamese Fighting Fish”) as a test subject

  • Betta splendens, also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish, is a good fish to use in aquatic studies and projects. They don’t need a lot of equipment or space, are easy to care for and are fairly inexpensive. They can be found in a lot of different colors and varieties but the most common kind that you will find in most stores is the Veiltail Betta. Some project ideas would be keeping bettas in a few different environments like a brightly lit versus darkened room, under a colored light like blue (“actinic”) light versus a white light, or warmer versus cooler temperatures. How do those changes affect each fish’s growth or coloration? You can take a picture every few days to compare any changes in their color or fins. Does the type of food or the color of the ornaments and backgrounds compared to the fish’s own color make any difference? Try different types or brands of food (flakes, pellets, frozen food, live food, freeze-dried food) to see how each affects the fish’s health.
  • A good way to measure growth is to weigh a specific amount of water in a container without the fish, then weigh the same container with the fish. The difference between the two weights will tell you about how much the fish itself weighs and changes in that weight will tell you if the fish has gained or lost weight.


Fish Food Nutritional Comparison

Aquatic Science Fair Projects and Fish Food Nutrition

Color-enhancing flake food like this is a common aquarium food.


  • Anyone who has gone shopping for food for their aquarium knows how many choices there are for your fish. Flakes, pellets, frozen, freeze-dried, live, color-enhancing, vitamin-enhanced…the choices can be overwhelming. At the time that I write this, we have over 400 different fish food items on our website alone! For a science fair project, you can compare several of these foods and see how your fish react; feed the same kind of fish in separate but identical environments the same amount of different types or brands of food at the same time of day and measure how this impacts their growth, health and behavior. Maybe one kind of food is advertised as color-enhancing or another has a different primary ingredient…does one kind give the fish brighter colors or make them grow more during the time frame of the experiment? The fish should all be in separate aquariums to make sure they are only eating “their” food but you can otherwise use any fish – goldfish, bettas, livebearers like mollies or guppies. You can use the same method as above to record their growth.



The Nitrogen Cycle and Aquatic Science Fair Projects

The Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen Cycle and “Cycling” a New Aquarium

  • The Nitrogen Cycle is a process that every aquarium and contained body of water will go through as the helpful bacteria populations that take care of fish waste will go through. Every aquarist has seen this happen whether they realize it or not. As the first living critters in a tank produce waste or leftover food or other material decomposes in the tank, a bacteria known as Nitrosomonas change that waste from ammonia (NH3) to nitrite (NO2). Another population known as Nitrobacter will change that Nitrite into Nitrate (NO3), the end product of the cycle which is usually removed by water changes or plants that use it to grow like fertilizer. If the levels of Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate could be put on a graph throughout the process, they should look like three hills with their peaks coming one after another. Can you set up and “cycle” a new aquarium and use test kits to record these values at a specific interval (every 5 hours, for example) and see if you can recreate this cycle? Does the number of fish change the levels or speed throughout this cycle? What about if the tank is cycled with a dead “waste” like leftover food instead of live fish?
  • A project like this does use chemical test kits. The kits available from pet stores for aquariums are easy to use, but adult supervision should always be used around chemicals like these.



Fish Tricks

  • Did you know fish can learn? Fish like goldfish have been “trained” to recognize objects and do all sorts of tricks like swimming through hoops or under limbo bars. There have even been “soccer matches” between saltwater fish to celebrate the World Cup. Training fish, like most animals, is all about positive reinforcement. Some companies have even made training kits just for teaching fish. Some experiments have trained fish to recognize certain colors by putting food in cups of one color (like red) but not others (like blue and yellow). Once the fish begins to associate the red cup with food, does putting a red ornament in the tank or red background on part of the tank make them choose that over the blue or yellow? How long does it take, and does any kind of fish learn faster than others? You can try putting one fish through its paces or train a few fish to compare their learning styles.
  • Check out this video from Rochester Institute of Technology’s Professor Caroline DeLong to see how she taught a goldfish to recognize shapes


Hatching Brine Shrimp and Aquatic Science Fair Project Ideas

Brine Shrimp Hatchery Kit

Hatching Brine Shrimp

  • Brine Shrimp are popular as fish food in aquariums as well as in the wild, and there was a time that “Sea Monkeys” were popular as “pets”. Hatching brine shrimp can be an interesting endeavor. They can be easy to grow but need just the right salinity (salt level) and the newly-hatched shrimp will need equally tiny food. The baby brine shrimp also show a behavior known as “phototaxis”, meaning they are attracted to light. Brine shrimp eggs are inexpensive and can be purchased in their dry “cyst” form where they will hatch once back in the right water. Experiment with salt levels, food like phytoplankton and with light and see what factors make for the best hatches. Once the shrimp are hatched, they can grow to almost a half inch in length and make great fish food!



This is just a sampling of some concepts that aquarists face every day and there are a lot more out there like overfeeding, breeding and genetics in fish like guppies or mollies, water changes and water chemistry…the possibilities are endless! Popular aquarium fish are even ending up in important medical research. Have we given you any ideas for your next science fair project or laboratory experiment? What would you like to learn more about, and what are some of your favorite projects? Share your results and experiences with us…we’d love to see the results of your studies!