First fish tank … The Beginning

January 11, 2007

[This article has been on standby for most of 2006, I think it is time I finish it off and get it out here.]

On an excursion to a shopping centre we don’t normally visit, I was struck by the very low price of aquaria in the front window. Sooner or later I was going to take one home.

As it happened we ventured back to the centre only a week or so later. The tanks were still there – calling out to me. How could I resist? When I was young my father was into keeping tropical fish for a number of years … they were the only pets we had to speak of. So I have a soft spot for keeping fish which I hope to pass on to my kids.

I bought the tank with an expensive piece of driftwood – nice upsell on a cheap tank, by the way! Anyway the driftwood came with a plant attached (which I have yet to identify) [now identified as an Anubias log] and I presumed that there would be a few bacteria and maybe a snail or two along for the ride, along with the bunch of Elodea. So I thought that I would start the tank with the plants and see what happened.

The tap water was treated with the store recommended product for treating water (and removing chlorine and other unwanted nasties.) Once mostly filled, I let it run for about two weeks. After that, as the water still looked nice and clear and the plants were still alive and a couple of small snails had appeared – I thought it was time to populate our little aquarium.

pH is high … will this be a problem?

March 25, 2006

Well two and a half months have passed and the freshwater fish tank is still going strong. As this tank was purchased to help me learn how to keep fish, I’m slowly adding to my store of knowledge and gear and learning as I go.

The last problem I had was cooling. Opening the flap to allow for more evaporation certainly helped (judging by the water loss) but the temperatures remained in the high range over 300 K. Now we’re moving into Autumn I’m not so concerned so this will wait for next Summer.

The latest addition is a simple pH testing kit. Since the tank is due for a water change (or at least a top-up) I figured now is a good time to start my testing regime.

Why have I not tested before this? Good question. I guess I need to talk about the beginning of my aquarium, but that as they say is another story.

Anyway I tested my tank and the incoming (treated tap) water and both were registering easily north of 7, in fact perhaps as high as 7.4! This basic kit requires dropping two drops of Bromothymol Blue into a small vial and visually testing against a colour card.

Now I have to decide if that is a normal pH for my tank or if I should work on lowering the pH a little. For the moment I’m going to leave it, but test as well to see what the range will be (as pH tends to change with the time of day…)

Aquarium cooling

January 10, 2006

Another new item in the aquarium is a small glass thermometer. It is to replace the ‘digital’ strip thermometer (you know, the type that ‘lights up’ the number of the current temperature – and was all but useless for my tank.)

Well the new thermometer shows the tank is running at around 302 k(elvin) – where it really should be in the range of 296 k to 301 k. (Is it just me, or is this starting to read like a retirement savings system?)

Of course the room (like the rest of the house) has no air conditioner, so it isn’t surprising that the tank is at room temperature. However I’d be happier if it were cooled a few degrees – if for no other reason than it will improve the level of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Naturally I turn to the web for hints – here are two pages with similar ideas for aquarium cooling. They tend to focus on marine tanks – which are more fragile, but the ideas are just as valid for freshwater tanks.

Beat the Heat: Aquarium Cooling Methods and How to Keep Your Aquarium Cool both have a range of sensible suggestions ranging from the obvious (buy an air conditioner) to the expensive (buy a refrigeration unit for the tank.)

However I am going to be trying some of the less expensive options first – like leaving open the flap in the hood that is used for feeding. This will accelerate evaporation and naturally provide some cooling. If that isn’t effective enough, I’ll move on to raising the hood a couple of centimetres (while making sure the fish don’t jump out) and possibly setting a small CPU or computer case fan to blow some air across the water’s surface.

There’s a good chance that I’ll keep updating here with progress, so you may eventually find out what works best here in sunny Sydney.


January 9, 2006

Just added some not so nice looking Elodea plants into our aquarium. The tank is small, unheated and has a few goldfish (Comets) and some tropicals (Zebras) as well.

The first bunches of Elodea have dissappeared (they’re good eating for the goldfish) so I figured that a few more would go down well. This time I am weighing them down at least, so they won’t be floating all over the tank 🙂

Back to the new plants – I actually got them at no charge as they are looking a little sad (mostly the brown colouring gave that away!) It would be unreasonable to expect them to live for very long, but perhaps if I increase the hours of light in the tank they may last a few weeks. Cross your fingers.