Pictures some of the Most Beautiful Fish

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Marine Tank Sump System with Refugium Setup

One of the common examples of a typical marine fish tank setup is to have a sump system which is just another separate smaller tank located at the bottom of the main aquarium. It consists of multiple chambers which allows water to flow through a series of filtration units, each playing a different role to filter and convert the waste into less harmful chemicals like the nitrates before being removed via consumption by the algae and finally before the water is returned to the main tank.

How it works and the mechanism
simple refugium sump systemUsually mechanical filtration concept will be introduced in the first chamber where it will receive water that will overflow from the display tank. Here, usually it can be made up of sieve or bag filters and depending on needs, sometimes external canister filter can also be considered as well and the main purpose is to remove all the large solids and waste particles that would otherwise clogged up the subsequent units if left around. This is needed before the water is diverted to the biological section. What follows next is the wet/dry trickle filter system whereby the large surface area provided by the bio balls will allow formation of thin film of bacteria like a coating on the surface which will help to break down and turn the harmful nitrites into nitrates before proceeding to the subsequent chambers. In between the mechanical and trickle filter usually a protein skimmer can be installed so that it can help to further reduce the biological load removing mainly protein so that the next chamber, which is the refugium can play a more efficient role (Read more in the protein skimmer topic). This is an interesting area that we shall discuss in details because over here, the refugium will become a safe haven and a place where the macro algae (Chaetomorpha), live rocks including some other small crustaceans such as copepod and amphipod will be allowed to thrive and live safely without being eaten by the fish. After having gone through this stage, the next choice will depend entirely on you as per need basis, some hobbyist will use different options such as combination of phosphate removers, activated carbon or calcium reactor before the water is circulate back to the top main tank using a pump. To sums it up, let’s look at the table below depicting the sequence and steps on what most people would use.

First ChamberSecond ChamberThird chamberFourth chamber
Mechanical filtration using sieve, bags or external canister filter (optional: protein skimmer)Wet/dry trickle filter to turn ammonia and nitrites into nitratesRefugium whereby most of the nitrates are consumed by the macro algae. Choice of either phosphate remover, activated carbon or calcium reactor

How to start and then putting things together
Setting up a sump system with a refugium usually can be accomplished by buying a custom made tank and then getting all the individual equipment or it can be as simple as purchasing a complete set or pre-assembled unit as I know some companies like Aqueon, Precision Marine and Eshopps supply them and it is only a matter of putting all the parts together. The hardest task and the main challenge after everything is set up is to jumpstart the system and get all the living organisms to live there. Chaetomorpha which is the macro algae can be easily bought from a local marine fish shop that sells them in bulk or you can simply ask a friend or local hobbyist in your community for help. Usually these plants will regenerate and grow very fast (provided that it lives in the right environment), thus most people would not have qualms about giving them away. One of the main aspects to ensure survival of the algae is getting the right lighting and most people prefer getting the compact fluorescent high intensity type such as VHO with the Kelvin range around 6500K. My first refugium lighting which I bought at much lower price compared to the normal units, fails miserably as I found that it could not sustain the growth of the algae resulting in pale green color of the plants and the bulb often encounters premature failure and has to be constantly replaced. Thus getting the right type with the spare parts readily available is very important and you should be careful not to jump into conclusion based on the price factor. I wouldn’t provide any recommendation here but searching online seems to yield quite a number of results and my suggestion is to check out the reviews.

How to ensure a healthy and self-sustaining refugium
Other than lights, other important aspects toward maintaining a healthy refugium is to ensure there is sufficient water flow and circulation. As explained earlier, the algae receives all its food from the waste material generated by the fish and thus selecting the right pump that delivers enough water back to and from the main tank is very important. Depending on the size of your aquarium, you will need a pump that can deliver the amount of water enough to circulate at least 3 to 4 times the capacity of your display aquarium in an hour and depends on the number of fish, more means you have to increase the pump capacity. As a rough guide, if let’s say you have a 100 gallon marine fish tank, you will need a pump that delivers the flow between 300 - 400 gallons per hour but however, some experts will always have different opinions. Overloading the sump system can also contribute towards failure of the whole process as high bio load can result in toxic accumulation that can render your refugium ineffective. That is why I included the protein skimmer as an optional item in between, installed after the mechanical filters but before going in to the refugium. This is to ensure that some of the waste is being removed prior to feeding to your algae and depending on situations, if you have a standard unit which is well maintained, that should take care most of your problems.



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Puffers and Porcupine Fish Facts

Puffer Fish remains one of the most fascinating underwater creatures due to their ability to inflate their body to become a silly odd-looking ball shaped appearance. As interesting as they can be, this is the main attraction that makes people want to keep them as pets and most hobbyists actually end up failed in their attempts due to the lack of understanding on their requirements. As mysterious as it can get, nothing is a secret as long as you search more information and learning through experience.

Most of the common puffers that you can see sold in pet stores belong to the Tetraodontidae family, also known as the four-toothed puffers, in which two of the teeth are located at the top and the other two at the bottom. Some of the popular species belonging to this group that are generally found are the Leopard better known as Green spotted puffer (Tetraodon fluviatilis), Figure eight puffer (Tetraodon palembangensis), Black spotted puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus) and the Dwarf puffer or sometimes called Pea puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus). Most of them spent a large part of their life time in marine saltwater condition but their juvenile and early periods of their life are most in fresh/brackish water, thus this the first and foremost thing you will need to know before you even get started.

green spotted puffer figure eight puffer
Pictures of commonly kept aquarium puffers.
Puffer fish can be very territorial and they are best kept as single species housed in their very own tank. They love crustaceans and the young puffers are mostly fed with small crayfish, shrimps or if you have aquarium snail infestation taking place in your tank, they will actually do a very good job of ridding of the pests. They are also known to have a veracious appetite and most of the time they will finish off every tiny bits and pieces of foods given to them. If you are unable to supply them with shrimps which can be costly over long period, you can actually use chopped or minced fish meat as a replacement.

That being said, you will definitely need a good aquarium filtration system (Eheim or Fluval canister filter is fine) and a large tank capacity that can hold huge amount of water in order to cope up with their high demands and extreme generation of waste material due to constant feeding. If well-fed, you will notice that they will grow very fast and soon enough you will have to change to a brackish water condition as they grow older. Make sure that you maintain specific gravity (SG) of 1.008-1.018 when they are at the juvenile stage and increase gradually to the range of 1.018-1.025 when they get older. There are conflicting statements among aquarist as to when is the right time that they should actually make the switch from freshwater to the brackish/marine water condition, but usually the period given is about one to one and a half years.

Porcupine Fishes also belong to the same puffer groups (as what they are aptly called) although they are classified into a separate family of their own called the Diodontidae. Most people do not really know how to discern between a Diodontidae and a Tetraodontidae but however, if you look closely at the porcupine fish, they only have a pair of teeth in which one is at the top and another at the bottom. One of the most commonly found species is the Diodon holocanthus (also called balloonfish) and similar like their cousins, you should always confine your pets to solitary tank. There are reports on how people manage to add catfishes or other aquarium species with bony plates (armor type) but most of the time even the larger size aggressive ones will fall prey to the poisonous toxin or from the bite coming from their strong beak-like mouth.

Despite their aggression however, puffers are very entertaining creatures as they will swim around the tank as soon as they sense your presence. Sometimes those cheeky ones will even squirt water as you get closer, so this something you will need to be prepared of duck immediately. Children and kids especially will love them but please ensure that the hood of the tank is perfect securely leaving no room for access that will cause untoward incident that can lead to serious injuries. All in all, if you are looking for a cute puppy face fish friend and playful pet, then definitely the puffers will fit nicely into this category. List of other types of funny-looking fish friend.



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Rare and Exotic Distichodus Fish

distichodus fishSmall Distichodus makes a great community fish not because of their friendly behavior being able to mix with the other tank mates but also due to their attractive coloration, appearing in multiple shades and tones depending on the species and age. They are known to be gentle herbivorous plant-eating fish but sometimes their behavior can become quite unpredictable especially when the aquarium gets too crowded or due to the addition of new pet fish belonging to the same genus. However, it remains a general consensus among the aquarist that you can safely add them together with some other different aquatic life forms like the African catfishes, large shrimps (not the tiny ones as they will get eaten), characins, gourami or even non-aggressive cichlids like firemouth, mbuna and peacock cichlids. One word of caution however, since they consume only vegetable based materials you will have difficulty establishing a healthy population of live aquarium plants as they will tear apart the leaves and eat as foods.

Not all distichodus are readily available in pet stores. In fact, it is very rare to see one being offered for sale unless there happens to be a request from somebody willing to pay for the shipment and get them imported to the country. Furthermore, due to increased level of pollution in their natural habitat and overfishing for the aquarium trade, their population in the wild have since dwindled, although not up to the stage of extinction. Not many people actually know about this type of fish and its existence, and more over some will often get confused and wrongly identify them as belonging to the barb species, in which both are totally not related to each other. According to wikipedia and other reference book sources, there are different species numbering at least 23 that make up the whole genus and tracing back to their natural origin in the wild, the fish actually belongs to the lakes in Africa centered around Angola, Zaire and Congo basin.

According to some hobbyists who have kept the freshwater fish as pets, the hardest part of keeping distichodus is about making them adjust to your artificial living condition in the tank. Because of this, they have low survival rate especially those native newly acquired species brought right from the wild. Overall, most would agree that this fish can be grouped into the exotic list since you can’t really get them anywhere as ready stock. Attempts to breed them as pets in home aquariums have so far not really been successful and even if the fish managed to produce offspring, there's high percentage that it might not reach towards the adult stage. Few of the most commonly found species are the D. affinis, D. notospilus, D. noboli, D. lusosso and D. sexfasciatus (six-barred distichodus, recognized as the most colorful of all).

Aquarium maintenance with only distichodus living in the tank is pretty simple as you do not need to commit long hours doing the cleaning as long as you have a high powered filtration system in place. I have seen them kept in large enclosure such as the juwel Trigon 350 liter tank and they fit perfectly well into the setup without any problem. Considering their length which can extend up to very long (up to 30 inches depending on the species), you should never buy an undersized aquarium which will confine them to tight living space and make it difficult for them to swim around as they are unable to turn their body and move to the opposite direction due to the elongated shape. In order to create the perfect aquarium design to house your pets, you can opt for the rocky type of setup filled with stacked caves and bogwood or if you chose to have live plants instead, you should go for anubias since this won’t get easily eaten by your fish.

Likewise when it comes to feeding, make sure that you provide sufficient foods like peas, lettuce, cabbage and spinach which they will readily devour and when it comes to routine water changes, just make sure that you do not perform more than 50% total capacity of the tank in order not to upset the environment. Distichodus when startled, will dash around the tank easily injuring themselves in the process and most of the time you have to ensure that the top aquarium lids are always covered or else they may even jump out from the enclosure. Some people find that adding African catfishes to be their companion seems to be the best option as their presence will help the distichodus acclimatize and provide the sense of feeling that they are at home in the tank. Other than that, if everything else is taken care of and food is provided in the right quantity, the distichodus should be able to live and survive for many years.

Some other rare and exotic fish you can consider: Clown knife (Featherbacks)



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Setting up Backyard Aquaponics System

The Concept Surrounding Aquaponic is very simple, yet interesting and is becoming increasingly popular as it captures the attention of not only aquarists and farmers around the world but also hobbyists alike. It is considered an eco-friendly and efficient food production system that combines both aquaculture (fish-keeping practice that aims to produce food fish) and hydroponics (cultivation of plants and vegetables using water instead of soil) into one sustainable effort, with each complementing and supporting another in terms of foods, nutrients, and also energy utilization. Nowadays with more knowledge and experience incorporated into enhancing and improving the system, everything can even be set up and constructed in your own backyard. While originally the whole idea of the practice is more towards production of food supply, but however these days, there are even people who use it to rear pets and complement their gardening hobby.

Setting up a backyard aquaponic system is very much a direct approach as long as you have the fish that continues to generate the waste which becomes the nutrient for the plants growth and the choice of vegetation that act as the natural filter so that the water can be cleaned and filtered before returning to the fish tank. I’ve seen before hobbyist using vegetable filter in their koi pond and have even written an article on it so basically the process is very much the same applied to aquaponics. Whichever it is, the choice on whether you intend to use it to rear pets or focus on breeding food fish like trout, catfish, tilapia or even prawns, these all depend entirely on what you want. Some people use it to generate supplementary income and based on how you plan and automate the common tasks during construction of the system, overall it can require very little amount of work to operate while most people actually use it mainly as part of their hobby. There are different types of setups created by individuals and basically the idea is to combine all the processes into a one single unit that is not only ergonomics, utilizes the least amount of energy but is also easy to operate with low level of maintenance.

small aquaponics systemLet’s look at one of the examples shown here with the diagram depicting a system, designed and constructed by Andy YingSan who owns a small backyard aquaponic. As you can see here, the movement of water is actually driven by gravity flow starting from the buffer tank located from the highest elevation flowing down to the plant beds and then finally to the fish tank. As the water passes through the beds, the nutrients coming from the fish waste with mainly all the nitrates will be readily absorbed by the roots and consumed for the growth. The slow water flow movement also allows microorganisms residing among the roots to play the vital role to further breakdown the organic waste so that it can be readily adsorbed by the plants itself and some of these microorganisms that get carried away with the water also serve as a food source for the fish to survive. The filtered water after having removed of the nitrates and whatever impurities is usually clean and since it has wide surface area exposure, the water will also contain the oxygen needed by the fish.

The fish tank located at the lowest elevation is similar like any other home aquarium systems. Basically you can keep any type of fish in it but if the objective is to create a food production supply for commercial purposes, then catfish, trout or tilapia will be ideal choices. The tank should not be overcrowded with the assumption that once you have the plants, these will be able to take care and absorb all the waste. This is because there is always a certain limit as to how much the plants can take and also there is no general rule of thumb to determine the best ratio of vegetation to fish. However as a rough guide, what I’ve seen before is that if you have two units of 3 by 3 feet of vegetation, this should be enough to support a 100 gallon tank that houses 4 to 5 fish. Filter is not an accessory compulsory for this type of aquarium as the plants will act as natural vegetable filter while the role of air pump to provide aeration has been taken care of by the top sprinklers and movement of the water. Once the water overflows out from the aquarium, it will be transferred via a specially-made aquaponics pump going back to the highest elevation. All in all, this is a perfect example of how symbiotic processes work in the natural outside environment.

One of the advantages of using this system is that, first of all, the whole setup can help save precious natural resource which is water. In terms of energy consumption, basically apart from the electricity needed to operate the pump, you don’t need anything else even for the fish tank aeration because as mentioned earlier, the movement and flow of water will take care of all that. Nowadays, there is also an advanced aquaponic system based on solar power which is totally environmental friendly. Apart from that, there is also savings in terms of maintenance cost because the plants will extract the food supplies which are the nutrients present in the water, so you don’t need fertilizers for that and this will be a perfect opportunity to grow organic vegetables. Somehow for the fish, part of their diet will comprise some of the microorganisms that get washed away by the water and if the whole setup is located outdoor, there will be extra supplement coming from the bugs and flying insects that dropped to the water. Of course, you will still need to feed the fish in moderate amount to provide for their daily needs. Having mentioned all that, don’t forget that with the success of the program, the produced fresh vegetables and fish is not only enough to support a small household consumption but with large-scale production, it can even translate to become a viable business plan.

If you are interested in this field of study, you can also check out the online manuals or attend aquaponics courses/workshops offered by certified professionals. There are even DIY start-up kits complete with all the supplies which I’ve seen offered by stores specializing in this area. Thus, if you are an environmental-conscious individual with the objective to produce the best eco-friendly system, using solar powered and then producing organic foods, then definitely aquaponic is the best option for you. If you are serious about setting up your own system, then let's go further about Aquaponic Requirement and Technical Aspects



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Guide on Keeping Trout as Pets

trout tankTrying to keep Trout in home aquarium tanks may not be the best idea but it is still possible as long as you follow some simple rules. But before we move on to start your mini project, let us first try to understand their behavior and general requirements. Trout being a freshwater fish that lives in cold temperate region is among one of the few species that can still be found living in the wild. Being an active fish which loves to swim in fast-moving waters, they are often targeted by anglers and the thrill and excitement of actually catching one remains the main point of attraction.

The number of trout these days has been dwindling and some species are faced with the threat of extinction. So far attempts to breed them in commercial fish farms have been successful and somehow there are instances whereby there are also people who would rather have them kept in fish tanks and raise them as pets. Though this may sounds odd, for me there is nothing wrong with it as you can actually view and watch them as they swim around in the aquarium or maybe the idea is to preserve some of the exotic trout species. Compared to raising them in farms with large ponds, confining them in home aquariums provides the real challenge because you have to deal with space constraint and more important is on how to simulate the natural living conditions.

There are basically 4 general rules when it comes to trout keeping:
  1. Ample living space
  2. Fast moving water that provide strong currents and good aeration
  3. Clean, cold water
  4. Plenty of live foods
In order to ensure that the fish thrives, they need ample living space to match with their full grown size that can reach anywhere between 20 to 30 inches. However, since they are kept in smaller aquariums, there’s high probability that your pets may not achieve its full potential with the length normally seen for aquarium-bred trout usually averages about 12 to 15 inches. The best aquarium capacity one should consider is a tank with minimum at least 200 gallons (nothing below) with the ideal capacity measuring above 1000 gallons. With that in mind, even with the largest tank you can afford, this can only house maximum about 2 to 3 of the fish. Avoid cramping them in tight spots because you will be subjecting them to harsh living conditions that can result with the water getting dirty quickly and stunting their growth.

Apart from the space issue, trout also need highly oxygenated and fast moving water so that can swim against the current. As they navigate around, this will allow their gills to take in the much needed oxygen so that this can complement their active swimming activity. Without this, your trout will basically end up listless and will become prone to disease. Apart from that, as they constantly move about, this can help them to develop their muscles and trout fish are known to be one of the fastest growing species. That is why your tank needs powerheads to create the flow and if possible attach it to a venturi system so that this can further enrich the water with oxygen (you might be interested to read up on managing TDO levels). All these are critical areas that you will need to look into and provide for your pets. If you are unsure as to which type of powerhead or model to get, the best way is to head over to the pet shop and look for a unit similar to the one that hobbyist use to create natural flow current in saltwater reef tank.

As mentioned earlier, they are classified as a member of the cold water species. Thus your home aquarium needs a chiller so that you can lower down the water temperature to at least 15degC. If possible, combine a cooling system with a regulator unit so that you can control the exact water temperature that you want in the tank. Having said that, this means that overall this will incur high operating cost especially the electricity bills just to maintain the trout tank, something that you will need to keep in mind. In order to ensure that the water stays clean all the time, try to avoid overfeeding and if possible introduce small but frequent number of meals so that your fish have enough time to finish all the foods. Use of aquarium filter is a must and those preferred setups are usually using those high capacity models like the Fluval FX5 or Eheim Series with 2 or 3 units combined together complete with a sump system. Consult the manufacturer if you are unsure whether you are providing enough filtration capacity meeting your aquarium size.

Trout is basically a carnivorous species and their favorite foods include insects, worms, shrimps and other smaller fish. Basically the best diet you can provide for your pets is to feed them with variety and different combination of food so that they get all the nutrition that they need. In order to avoid introducing disease to the tank, try to source for your live fish food supply from reputable dealers that maintain high standard of hygiene. You can also play your part to provide the next level of assurance by quarantine and keeping the worms and shrimp in another separate tank and frequently changing the water before feeding it to your trout. This will ensure that at least you will know that your foods are safe since you are providing an ample time to flush out the germs and monitor if the disease is still there. There are reports of hobbyist substituting live foods using only hikari carnivorous pellets but I wouldn’t recommend feeding on it for long term. If well cared for, it is not surprising to find the trout adding at least one inch in length every month.

There are also other custom-made aquarium systems called the trout tanks that come with complete set of all the equipment like chillers, filters and powerheads so that you don’t have to worry about wrong selection and compatibility with your tank. Finally, now that you know what to expect and anticipate on what lies ahead, make sure you are well-prepared because once you have made up your mind to go for trout, there is no turning back. Other subject of interests: The thought of combining trout into Aquaponic System



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About Me

My Photo

My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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