Home | Common Aquarium Questions (page 28)

Category Archives: Common Aquarium Questions

Feed Subscription

Adding a New Fish? Don’t Forget to Quarantine

Sam here. Quarantine tanks are very important for new or sick fish. When bringing fish home they should be housed in a quarantine tank for the first couple of weeks to be sure they are in good health. There are several reasons for this.

1. Stress

Just like people, fish get stressed out when they are suddenly thrust into a new environment, and this stress only increases in the presence of other fish. A quarantine tank allows your fish to “come down” from that intial home stress, making it healthier to cope with life in the main aquarium.

2. Easier and Cheaper to Medicate

Transporting or moving fish is a stressful time, and often leads to disease. Fish commonly contract bacterial infections, fungal infections or parasitic infections after coming home, and the last thing you would want would be to spread these to your other fish. In addition, an isolated sick fish is much more ecomomical, quicker and easier to medicate than one in a large display tank. Many common fish medications, such as copper or formalin based, are detrimental to other tank inhabitants as well as biological filtration, so keeping an isolated quarantine tank is essential.

3. Easier to Observe

There is no better way to ascertain the health of a fish than simply by watching it. Large display tanks can have lots of nooks and crannies for fish, especially stressed ones, to hide. Having an isolated quarantine tank makes it quick and simple to gauge when your fish is in prime shape.

Have a great New Year,


My Top 10 Favorite Tanganyikan Cichlids, From the Mind of a Cichlid Mad Man

Hey folks Jose here, this time I’m talking about my 10 favorite Tanganyikan Cichlids. These guys didn’t attract me until I saw my first adult Frontosa at a fish show, next thing I know I was breeding shell-dwellers. The main reason I like Tanganyikans is because of their spawning behaviors, but there are some that would rival species from Malawi in beauty, so let’s begin shall we?

Cyprichromis sp. – It’s tough to just pick one variant or species of this genus as a favorite, as there are so many different color variants that occur, but if you want a schooler this is it. Just don’t keep them with aggressive species and Frontosas. They are docile and pretty enough to pack plenty of impact in a group.

Cyathopharynx sp. – Here’s another genus with many color variants. Again, I have a hard time picking just one, although I really love C. foai which I’ve kept and bred.  Maybe that makes me partial, but they are absolutely gorgeous fish.  In classic featherfin manner, their spawning habits are really interesting to watch.  The male shakes and coaxes the female to his crater-shaped nest in the substrate. There the ritualistic and well-choreographed spawning dance continues as the female lays her eggs.  The male then entices the female to take her clutch into her mouth by dragging his elongated fins over the sand.  As she picks up the eggs he fertilizes them.

Benthochromis tricoti – This 10″ deep water beauty has to be my all time favorite cichlid. The male is striking, especially when he is courting females. Females have a huge mouths despite their small clutch size. One important thing to know about keeping these guys is to keep the lighting on the dimmer side, as it will wash their color out if it is too bright.

Cyphotilapia frontosa – The frontosa is another big fish with a big head…enough said, see one and you’ll know.

Golden OcellatusShell-dwellers (any species) – These are little fish with big fish attitude! There are many different species, but my personal favorite is the Golden Ocellatus. They are fun fish for small tanks where you can really watch them do what they do.

Bathybates sp. – These deep water predators are mainly silver with lots of teeth (like barracuda!). There are 7 species ranging from 9 to 17 inches.  They’re  not very common in the hobby, but definitely worth keeping if you should see them available and you have a large spare tank aching for something fun to display.

Astatotilapia burtoni – These were my first experience with mouth brooders. I was captivated by the bright egg spots on the male’s anal fin. The very bright orange spots show beautifully against the males varying blue to yellow coloration, which largely depends on his mood. They’re moderately aggressive, but easy to breed and nice to look at.

Enantiopus sp. – This group of cichlids are also known as Flashers, as in the males flash their vivid colors at females during spawning, they are sensitive and delicate and should not be kept with more boisterous species.

Lepidiolamprologus kendalli (nkambae) – This 7 inch predator is L. nkambaeTanganyika’s version of our Northern Pike. Their aggressive attitude is ample, so make sure you have a tight fitting lid as an individual may try to exclude all other fish from its territory. They’re fish that command respect.

Neolamprologus buescheri – This 3 inch species is a reclusive fish that becomes very aggressive during spawning and towards similar species. A sharp looking fish, they prefer dimly lit tanks with plenty of rock to establish territory.

So that’s my top 10 Tanganyikan Cichlid picks! Next time I will share my picks of favorite Central American Cichlids (yay!)

Please comment and tell me your favorite Tanganyikans, I love to hear the experiences of other cichlid fanatics!

Until next time,


So, You’ve Got Questions About Reverse Osmosis Water?

Hi everyone, Justin here. Working on the sales floor, we get a lot of technical aquarium questions, many involving water quality.  Today, I’d like to talk a little about reverse osmosis and what RO units do.  RO, or Reverse Osmosis units are the best way to ensure that your water is perfectly clean. Reverse osmosis is a process in which dissolved solids are removed from water. The pressure from your tap forces the water through a semi permeable membrane that allows only water to pass through. The contaminants are then washed out in the waste water.

There are many factors that will determine the efficiency of your RO filter. Incoming water pressure should be around 60 psi. This is standard pressure coming from most hoses and sink faucets. If the pressure is too low, a booster pump may be necessary to increase the pressure into the RO unit. Water temperature is another important factor. Water that is too cold will cause a drop in pressure, while water that is too hot will damage the membrane. A suitable temperature range is 60-75 degrees F. Total dissolved solids, or TDS, is the measure of the amount of solids dissolved into your water. The higher the TDS in the tap, the quicker the membrane will wear out and need to be replaced. The age and quality of the membrane will also determine the effectiveness of the RO. A new membrane will pull out more TDS than an older membrane. A higher quality membrane will also be more efficient and last longer.

RO membranes will remove contaminants on an ionic level. This means that the membranes will remove single ions and particles as small as 0.001 microns. As a reference, the smallest known bacteria is approxiamately 0.200 microns. Below is list of the ions removed and an average percentage removed:


Elements and the Percent R.O. Membranes will remove





















85 – 94%

96 – 98%

94 – 98%

85 – 95%

60 –75%

94 – 98%

95 – 98%

95 – 98%

94 – 96%

96 – 98%

95 – 98%

92 – 96%

94 – 98%

96 – 98%

85 – 92%

94 – 98%

95 – 98%

95 – 98%

84 – 92%

85 – 92%

% may vary based on membrane type water pressure, temperature & TDS

There are two different types of membranes commonly available, CTA and TFC. CTA stands for cellulose tri-acetate and is safe for use with chlorine-based water sources. CTA membranes should be used for City Water sources. TFC stands for thin film composite and is not safe for use with chlorine based water sources. TFC membranes must be used with well water, or chlorine free water sources only.

Inside the lines of each RO unit are flow restrictors to ensure proper pressure and flow over the membrane. These flow restrictors are small “dams” or nozzles that allow only a certain amount of water flow through the lines. The membranes coupled with these flow restrictors are made to handle the maximum flow of water through the restrictors. Placing a membrane rated too low into the unit will ruin the membrane, while placing a membrane rated too high will not increase production of water.

There are many different styles of RO filters available. 2 Stage and 3 stage filters are the most commonly available, but other higher stage filters are also available. On all two stage RO filters, there is the membrane, a micron cartridge, and a carbon block. The micron cartridge pulls out tiny particles that may be in the water. The carbon block will pull out any organic contaminents before entering the membrane. The membrane is the last stage in all 2 stage filters. In 3 stage filters, the last stage is a deionization cartridge. The deionization cartridge or DI removes any ions that may have passed through the membrane. The 3 stage RO/DI filters are the most efficient and will guarantee clean water.

I hope this article helps you to understand what RO units do and how they benefit your aquarium and the fish you keep.  Feel free to comment or ask any questions you may have!



Captive Bred Fish for Aquariums and the Difference Between Selective Breeding and Breeding Hybrids

Hello, Jason here. Over the years the aquarium trade has progressed to cater to the demands of consumers and to comply with the prevalent eco-issues at the same time.  Now more than ever, consideration is also given to the impact the trade has on native populations and the integrity of  stock. The livestock in the aquarium trade is increasingly supplied by breeders captive bred or captive raised fish.  Some fish are bred for color, behaviors or another reason that makes them unique and interesting to the potential buyer. While this is good as it helps protect wild populations from being over harvested, it does bring up another Parrot Hybridproblem that appears within the aquarium trade from time to time. Breeders are constantly trying to keep up with the growing demand for fish, so their methods may not always produce the best quality of fish. This is often most noticeable among Cichlids, especially African Cichlids, though some of the better known hybrids commercially available are derived from New World Cichlids.

Some breeders are more concerned with quantity and saleability that the integrity and quality of the fish they are producing for the trade. Hybrid fish result when two distinct species produce offspring together, sharing qualities of both species. Fish with physiological deformities may result as with Bloody Parrots, but at the very least, captive hybridization can obscure or pollute pure genetic lines that should be kept pure, from a conservation stand point.  Defects can be small like an abnormal color pattern or body shape, or more advanced. Many hybrids will look very similar to one of the two species that it came from, but it may have unique coloration or slightly different shape. Some of these hybrid fish may never show any sign of distress as a result of their questionable lineage. Some hybrid fish are born sterile.  Fish of poor breeding like this may have issues surviving or thriving in the aquarium.  They may have trouble feeding or swimming, especially with tankmates that do not have similar disadvantages.  If they do have a defect that is enough to effect these abilies, they will not have the ability to thrive without special attention in many cases. Some hybrids may also have difficulty in fending off disease.

Long fin Gold Ram

Some breeders choose to selectively breed species, typically to develop or reproduce a specific mutation that occurs within a species, but is not found in the wild.  These are often carefully bred for a specific result such as elongated fins or to enhance a particular color that some fish bear naturally to some degree.  These fish still maintain their species integrity, but display more prominently the desired trait they were selected for.  True conservationists may shy away even from these selectively bred variants to maintain the most naturalistic display possible, though color variants are usually more acceptable than hybrid fish.

Keep quality in mind when looking for a new fish for your aquarium. Reputable breeders take pride in the fish they produce, and are careful to breed good stock, with pure lines to preserve the integrity of the species they are helping to conserve.  There are many breeders that selectively breed purebred strains that have brighter coloration and better health because the species lines are kept pure. These are the fish you want to look for to keep in your aquarium.

Until next time,


Marine Shark Species in the Home Aquarium – A Cause for Careful Consideration

Sharks hold a fascination for everyone, whether they inspire fear or admiration.  They are iconic creatures many of us automatically associate with oceans, reefs, beaches and aquariums.  Though I have to say I am not a supporter of most sharks being placed in home aquariums, the possibility and temptation presents itself too often to be ignored.  Perhaps the best option is to present readers with enough information on some more appropriate species, and to encourage interested parties to research before purchase, so that these beautiful creatures will be kept in captivity more successfully.

In the vast majority of cases, captive sharks are best kept and observed in large, public aquariums, or better yet, left in their native waters to thrive.  Most species are simply too large, too mobile, and too high maintenance for the home aquarist.  If you have a VERY large aquarium, more than adequate filtration, and the financial means to acquire and support them, there are a couple of species that are less demanding that I’d like to introduce.  These species are the most common in the trade, and may be kept successfully with the right care and housing.

Bamboo Sharks, Coral Catsharks, and Epaulettes

Bamboo Sharks (i.e. Banded Catsharks) are probably the most frequently offered type of shark in the aquarium trade.  Several species are seen, they are banded brown and tan, and may have spots when they mature. Those in stores are reasonably priced and are typically sold as young pups. Egg cases are also available, allowing you to observe the embryonic shark as it develops and hatches in captivity (usually in 3-6 months). Pups are about 6 inches long when they emerge.  These sharks are native to the Indo Pacific and have the potential to grow to about 3.5 feet in length.

Coral Catsharks are a little less frequent, but they have very attractive black, tan and white patterns.  They are true tropical reef sharks, and grow to just under 30 inches in length.  They are quite docile, but should not be underestimated.

Epaulette SharkEpaulettes are very attractive, too, but they are not seen often in the trade.  These sharks are also tropical, collected from Australia and the surrounding region.  They are usually pale brown in color with dark spots all over and an ocellated black spot just behind the gills.  They reach a size of a little over 3 feet and are usually more expensive that cat or bamboo sharks.

Horn Sharks

Horn Sharks are another common type imported for sale.  Also known as bullhead or pig head sharks, these have stout bodies, a short, blunt head, with ridges over the eyes, and a prominent spine on the front of each dorsal fin.  Most often California or Mexican Horn sharks (and once in a while Port Jackson Horn Sharks from Australia) are found in pet stores.  These sharks grow to about 3.5 feet at maturity.  They are found along sandy bottoms and in kelp beds along the western coast of California and Mexico to Central America. These sharks prefer cooler water than those above (a chiller may be required), and they tend to excavate rock and substrate. 

We have 2 resident Horn Sharks here in our Touch Tank.  They spend most of their time under the rock formations in the center of the tank, but become quick and active when they smell food.  With the cooler temps, large volume and heavy filtration in the display they have grown quite fat and happy.  We’ve even found several spiral-shaped egg cases in the past couple of years!  These sharks are quite docile, with a mouth full of teeth designed to crush more than to tear. 

To Be Avoided

Several other species are seen from time to time including Wobbegongs, Dogfish, Nurse Sharks, and other even less appropriate species.  These should not, in my opinion, be offered or purchased for home aquariums  due to their large potential size, and/or special requirements.

Keeping Sharks

Shark Egg CasesSharks and egg cases should NOT be placed in tanks of less than 180 gallons (preferably larger), and the tank should be well-established. Despite their small purchase size and relatively sedentary behavior, they grow quickly and need space to move freely and turn.  The larger the tank the better (think about 3 times or more the length of the sharks adult size), furnished with some minimal rock piles and a cave where the fish can retreat and rest.  You’ll also want to supply ample flow and filtration as well as a good protein skimmer.  Even if you feel that the tank you already have may be large enough for the baby shark, or that you’ll have time to upgrade to a larger tank when necessary, it would be best to have an established tank of adequate size and function before considering a shark.

These fish will prefer their salinity on the higher side to mimic sea water, and keep it constant.  They will require regular water changes to keep their conditions pristine.  A varied diet of meaty foods should be supplied, including but not limited to shrimp, clam, krill, squid, silversides, and others (fresh or frozen, not live).  These fish can be fed 2-3 times each week, but be careful not to over feed for the sake of the shark and the water quality.  Hand feeding should be avoided to prevent accidental bites (don’t underestimate their speed or agility!).  Other fish may be housed with these sharks, as long as they are of adequate size, but be observant as some fish tend to be notorious harassers of sharks. Bottom dwellers and invertebrates like crabs, shrimp, and urchins should be avoided as they may become casual meals.  Also be aware that sharks have acute sensitivity to metals and chemicals in medications, so if a problem arises, thorough research should be performed before adding any treatment to the tank.

When you’re ready and you have carefully considered purchasing a shark, look for healthy, well-adjusted specimens that are feeding well and are not emaciated.  Avoid sharks with visible parasites or that look sunken (though newly hatched pups take a little while to fatten up).  With the right care and set-up they can be interesting and long-lived pets. 

Thanks for reading, and please let us know if you have any comments or questions about sharks for a home aquarium.

Until next time,


Shark egg cases image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jean from flickr by falashad
Epaulette Shark image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted from flickr by Jim Capaldi