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Our resident Giant Gourami ‘Bubbles’ he is a legend!

Giant Gourami

Welcome to Aquatic Village.

First things first.All fish require the same amount of care and attention.There is no secret to fish keeping in essence we are water keepers.Fish look after themselves.Our job is to provide the correct water quality for them and when i say water quality i do not mean water clarity.There is a fundamental difference between the two.If you think clear water is the answer to all your problems then you are setting off down the wrong road.

As fish keepers our goal is to make sure that our animals are living in the correct environment and to achieve this we need to test the parameters of our water.It is your job as a fish keeper to purchase a complete water test kit.Do not under any circumstances rely on your local fish shop to do this for you.It is your hobby your fish will die on your time not theirs Murphy s law applies to fish as well by the way.

When I talk about water testing the first thing people do is cringe…..why?This is not rocket science it is in fact probably one of the most interesting aspects of our hobby.Where does our waste come from and where does it go.Did you no for instance that a substantial part of a fishes waste comes from its gills.Here ammonia is exchanged on a constant basis every time a fish opens and closes its gills.Everyone thinks a fish just poos and that it but no it gets a little more convoluted than that.Waste comes from the decomposition of organic matter.In other words anything organic introduced to our system will break down and release ammonia.This goes for food,plant material,wood,mucous the list is inexhaustible.

The peculiar thing is this waste does not colour our water.So clear water is no indicator.Fish behavior is no real indicator because only more experienced fish keepers will recognize this and by then it may be too late.I tell customers if you would like to work on the water clarity theory then throw your fish in to warm vodka and see how long they last.

Many of our fish species do not come from clear water environments.They almost always come from biologically clean ones.Some waters have high turbidity meaning the water may be stained with tannins or cloudy from sediment but the amount of nitrogenous waste in the water column is invariably nil.

So we use a test kit to test for four main parameters.Ammonia,nitrite,nitrate and PH.Simple.We keep our Ammonia levels at nil.We keep our nitrite levels at nil.We try to keep by doing suitable water changes our nitrate levels below 20ppm.The bottles are clearly marked we work via a colour chart and we use a 5ml sample.This is how simple things are.All fish require an ammonia and nitrite environment.The only real variance will be the PH of our water.Some fish like a neutral Ph of 7 whereas others will like a more alkaline ph like for example Malawi Cichlid’s.Some fish species will prefer a lower Ph like for instance Discus.

When it comes to wild fish actual P generation specimens then we need to pay more particular attention to the correct Ph levels.Captive bred species tend to be a little more forgiving to fluctuations from the norm.

Remember we are dealing with a closed system.We are god.We must provide food and hygiene for our animals.So the first thing you buy is a test kit.You test your water it is up to you and only you so do not be lazy.

We use filtration to control the nitrogenous waste that accumulates in our tank.What i mean by this is we grow two forms of bacteria on our filter media.Nitrosomonas and nitrobacter.These are a particularly slow growing bacteria.We use cultures to seed our system.It can take up to two months to achieve this.Our filtration is our life support.Depending on temperature and oxygen levels our filter will work to a varying degree.The bacteria we use operate at an optimum temperature of 33 degrees Celsius so most fish keepers will experience different levels of efficiency.Remember our bacteria are oxygen loving so oxygen levels are a critical factor.So make sure you use an appropriate  air pump for the task.Another benefit of using an air pump is that by chance you have a filter malfunction then at least oxygen levels can be maintained.One of the biggest and quickest killers of fish populations is oxygen depletion.Especially for large fish species with a higher oxygen demand.

Whenever possible i suggest the use of two separate filter units.most new set ups will come with one filter included.Just remember that your bacteria colonize your filter media after quite a long time,they form a bio film and grow according to the amount of food present for them (nitrogenous waste)when we clean that filter we will upset the biological function of the filter IE.we will reduce its ability to process waste often to the detriment of our fish.I always suggest using a second filter in conjunction with the first.By alternating the cleaning of the unit say 2-4 weeks apart we can maintain a healthy biological function.The added bonus here is that by running two filters simultaneously you divide the physical load into two units making them more efficient needing less maintenance.

Remember never clean your filters biological media IE sponges etc near untreated tap water.We use water taken from the aquarium.The reason for this is municipal water will invariably contain chlorine and chlorine kills bacteria so in effect you will be sterilizing your filters and we do not want to do that.So tap water must be conditioned using a suitable water conditioner!Remember always test your water in the days following filter maintenance your water may look clean and healthy but by now we should know better!If you have done the job correctly then your ammonia levels and nitrite should be nil the way it should be.

As a note it is important to know ammonia is more toxic at a higher Ph than it is at a lower Ph.So marine keepers and rift valley cichlid keepers bear this in mind.

So forget clear water!Clear water means nothing.Our filters are like factories they take a harmful waste and produce a lesser waste from it called nitrate.This happens 24/7 so do not become complacent.Nitrate has to be removed one way or another.Water changes is the most common way but using plants to consume nitrate is the most aesthetically pleasing.

So a beginner should have at hand a test kit that will test for at least the following ammonia,nitrite,nitrate and ph.Two biological filter units. Water conditioner and a bacteria culture.An air pump.And i would suggest a reliable book.

As for fish………this is where it gets tricky.

More to follow!