Monday, December 28, 2009

Newly Purchased Tanks ~

So, some caved in and bought the tank or received one for Christmas; welcome to the aquarium hobby!

For those of you who have not set up your tank yet, we thought we would insert some embarrassing shots of mistakes at this point in the series, in hopes of steering you clear of some pitfalls. For those of you who did not go to Grandma's and have already started filling your tank, we hope this article answers some questions as well. Fishless Cycling was covered on December 20, 2009 in an article entitled "New Tank Acclimation, Phase I"
Fishless Cycling comes after these set-up tips.

If you have dry driftwood, start soaking it in a bucket of water. It will take about two weeks for it to become saturated. Yes really, sorry. However, you are doing a fish-less cycle, right? Not a big deal, by the time your cycle is complete, your driftwood will be saturated.

The first thing you should do with a new tank is check for leaks by filling it. Pretty simple, right? New tanks have been known to leak on rare occasion; the 10g:view leaked after three weeks. We never did find out what caused the leak, the silicone sealing was fine, there were no cracks in the glass, it is a mystery.
A 24 hour test should be sufficient, yes really.

Next we clean the inside glass with plain old vinegar and newspaper or paper towel. Do not use glass cleaner. {period}
If there is no vinegar in the house, use the plain, pure ammonia you bought for your fish-less cycle. {It was on the list in the article on Holiday Aquarium Purchasing}

You will be surprised at how quickly the glass gets dirty and smudged. Now we are ready for the substrate; whatever you use for substrate, wash it thoroughly. The substrate has been tossed around, rubbed against itself and a fine dust will cover everything. Do not expect your filter to clean that stuff up, see stupidity here --->

This is what happens when we do not read the distructions, we end up with an embarrassing, frustrating mess. The substrate can be washed in a strainer or colander, if the holes are small enough to prevent the substrate particles from falling through. A hair strainer for your drain will help keep that stuff out of the drain, or a piece of cheese cloth will work as well.

Despite best efforts, the water will be cloudy but not as bad as this. There may be some silt dust on the glass but it is not serious, as we have already cleaned the inside glass of anything greasy or oily that would trap silt particles, leading to potential scratching. The best way to keep the remaining silt to a minimum is to partially fill the aquarium by 1/3, then siphon out that water. Then start your refilling with conditioned water. Water conditioner is super important in your fresh, out-of-the-tap water. It removes chlorides and chlorine. Do not skip the purchase of this stuff. Chlorides in your water will kill your beneficial bacteria crop and your fish. If you are using a bucket or gallon jug, place a soup bowl or dinner plate into the aquarium and gently pour the water onto that surface. The bowl or plate will diffuse the water current and keep everything from rising into the water column.

A second option, which we use, is the "gentle-fill" method.
In our fish-village, we have a nice metro-style, fish rack.
Our shop light {not seen here} is suspended from a shelf above the two ten gallon tanks. We lucked out and acquired two five gallon carboys for $5. One is used for gentle fill, the other is used for waste water drain. We take silly pride in our carboys. The same can be achieved with a bucket or tub. A piece of air hose cut to length, one end weighted in the bottom of the carboy or bucket, the other end dropped into the tank. The benefits of this method are; little if any disturbance of the substrate, condition all the water needed for a refill or water change all at once and less work while doing tank maintenance. We can actually sit down and write while the gentle fill is taking place. Great solution if you do not have access to a full-fledged fish room, or your water source is too far away to be practical. Cheap and efficient, we love that!

That is more like it. The cloudiness is minor, our filter can certainly handle it within an hour or two. We filled the tank for demonstration purposes, you should fill your tank one half to two thirds full if you have long arms. Planting and arranging is best done in a tank with less water, not more.

Should you be adding hard-scape such as driftwood, rocks or shelving to create layers, it should be done before your final half to two thirds fill. It is much easier to work with a half filled tank than to frustrate yourself sloshing water all over the place. Driftwood should have been soaked for two weeks or so prior to starting this part of your aquarium project. Dry driftwood floats, hence the name. If you did not soak your driftwood, you can weigh it down with something. Plants go in next, pay attention to two things; your eye travels naturally from bottom left to top right. Place your plants according to the natural way the eye travels. Second, you eye will target the upper, right corner of dead center, that is where you want your focal point to be. Specimen plants or optical focus should be in that area. Attach your hardware before getting to the fussy part of small plant placement. When you are satisfied, top off the tank and start your hardware up.

Sit where you would normally to watch the tank. Watch it during daylight and with all the lights off except the tank light. This will give you a good idea of what your final project will look like. Something not quite right? Now is the time to fix it by moving things around, before your livestock moves to into the tank.

Now you wait. You can re-read New Tank Acclimation, Phase I, research livestock or join an online community of experienced aquarists. We suggest all three. Our experience is that aquarists are vey friendly and helpful. No question is too lame, they are happy to help.

We reviewed the AqAdvisor, Aquarium Advisor on our old site a month or so ago. It is a great stocking tool, designed to help you make choices about which fish and shrimp will work well in your tank. It will give you warnings if you are planning to stock fish that are not compatible or too many fish for your tank size and filtration. Give it a try, questions and feedback are welcomed by the developer. They help him as much as they help you.

That is about it for this article. Next article we will be covering tank logging. As always, your comments and feedback on our experiences are welcome.

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