Category: Fish

Watering Your Fishes

As I write this, I am probably correct when I say that you know of the water cycle. Everyone knows that our world is mainly created of water and that the water circulates around us constantly. And since you know this, I can move on.
I have overheard people asking questions about their water sources and various pet stores. Some people ask about adding bottled water to their fish tanks, or if tapwater is safe to add. I thought that I would explore a couple different methods of watering your fish.



Your tapwater contains a wide range of substances. Salts of calcium, magnesium, sodium and small, but vital quantities of trace elements may or may not be included.

Tapwater is treated with chlorine or chloramines. This tradition, while keeping us safe from harmful bacteria, is a great concern for the aquarist. Another tradition is to add fluoride to keep our teeth healthy, and water softening chemicals. Your water supplier will be able to your questions about your tapwater’s composition.

Tapwater is suitable for general fishkeeping and for breeding livebearers (they aren’t a picky bunch), but the quality can be improved upon by removing the chlorine and chloramines that are added. These two chemicals will kill your fish if used in great quantities.

To remove chlorine and chloramines is an easy task. They can be dispersed by letting the water stand uncovered in old water containers for twenty-four hours, or by aerating for twenty-four hours. You can also use commercial anti-chlorine products.


If you live in an area where the air is clean, then investing in a rainwater bucket or tub is a valuable asset. However, even areas that appear to have clean air can have rains that are full of contaminants. To catch clean water, make sure that your bucket is clean. If you must wash it out do not use soap, use hot water and salt. Don’t catch your water from the gutter on your building as it might be rusty. Also avoid catching water after a dry spell.

To use your rainwater, half it with tapwater.

Bottled Water

I do not recommend using bottled water unless you have no other choice. Bottled water lacks the natural enzymes and minerals that fish need present in their water. If you simply must use bottled water, I would suggest Spring Water.

Breeding And Your Water

Livebearers, excluding the Molly, are not very picky about their water quality while breeding. You can continue your usual water routine, that is, unless you choose to. It doesn’t take anything on your part to get a couple of livebearers interested in spawning, all you need is a male and a female.

Fish Diseases: Diagnosis

The following are a few diseases that you must be able to identify while choosing a fish, whether it be from breeders or from a pet store. One of the main keys to a tank being diseased, is the color of the water. If the water appears to be a blue or green color, that is an indication that it is being treated for sickness.


If you find several fish in the tank that are scraping or “hitting” themselves against tank fixtures, wiggling drastically back and forth in place, or have white growths like fungus or cysts, you might want to reconsider buying anything from that tank. If you decide to buy a fish from tanks that exhibit these mentioned symptoms, be sure to place the fish in a hospital tank from 7-30 days before adding to a community of fish.

Some of these diseases are very apparent, some of them are hard to see, or impossible to diagnose until the fish is dead and you have it examined under a microscope. It is very important to quarantine new fishes for 7-30 days before introducing them into your breeding community. While the learning never stops, eventually you will find yourself moving on instinct and experience!

Abnormal Growths:

A wide variety of tumors appear on guppies most often. Some are benign, some are malignant. If found in your stock or fry, it is best to destroy the fish.

Bacterial Diseases:

Air Bladder Disease: Some fish with air bladder problems lie on the bottom of the tank and make efforts to rise, only to relax to the bottom again. Others may float and be unable to swim downward. This is because of inflamed organs that reduce the size of the air bladder, or inflammation of the air bladder.

Bloat: Scales appear to stand on end, and fish looks bloated. This may be signs of an intestinal infection. Fish cannot swim below the surface without exertion, and many stay in upright position.

Gas Bubble Disease: There isn’t an exact, known cause for this disease. Bacteria invades portions of the fish’s body, and then collects in areas. EXAMPLE: Collects behind the eyes and pops them forward.

Shrinking: Fish seems to “shrink”, the abdomen becomes smaller, the fish’s bottom becomes straight; is found in many females. Fish quickly dies. Condition may be caused by Turbuculosis, or high acidity in water.

Turberculosis: This disease is very slow, and the fish does not waste away. This disease shows few symptoms, resulting in the death of numerous fish. Does not spread through the tank.

Fish Of The World

When you walk into an aquatics store to buy fish, how do you make your choice? Is it color or price? Do you know if your tank creates the proper habitat or do you know if the fish will be compatible? By knowing the various species of fish, you will be able to make an informed decision on what to buy, how to decorate your tank and how to take care of your fish.



In the world of today’s tropical fish hobbyist, there are eight different distinct species of fish :

  • Characins
  • Barbs and Danios
  • Rainbow Fish, Silversides, Rice Fish
  • Loaches, Flying Foxes, Elephant Trunk Fish
  • Live Bearers
  • Killiefishes
  • Labyrinth Fishes
  • Cichlids

These fish belong to the species Characiformes. These are the only fish that have an extra fin inserted between their dorsal and their caudal fins. This extra fin is called the adipose fin. Even though Characins survive in the open waters of rivers and lakes, these fish need a protected area in the aquarium. This may be accomplished by having a densely planted bottom and the use of Mango roots. These fish will exhibit fantastic color only if the bottom of your aquarium has dark sand and the lighting is shaded by floating plants, indirect lighting, or lower wattage bulbs. These fish behave better in groups of ten or more and will only show their natural behavior in these groups.

Barbs and Danios
These fish belong to the species Cypriniformes. Barbs and Danios can be recognized by the small barbs that grow out of their mouths, but you will really have to look to see them. These fish are always confused with Characins, but they do not look the same and do not have the extra fin that the Characins possess. The aquarium should be densely planted in dark colours with lots of open areas for swimming. These fish behave better in groups of ten or more. They are both top and mid tank swimmers.

Rainbow Fish, Silversides, and Rice Fish
Rainbow fish belong to the species Melanotaeniidae, the Silversides to the species Atherinidae , and the Rice Fish to the species Oryziatidae. These fish can be easily recognized by their elongated bodies and slightly flattened sides. Their often-splendid colors generally reach their peak when the fish reaches maturity. All these fish are shoaling fish and do not survive well unless kept in schools of ten or more. These fish are generally a peaceful fish and can be kept with most fish except larger aggressive fish.

Fish For Your Salt Water Tank

Here is a short description of the main fish that are most popular in the salt-water aquarium. I hope that this information will be of some interest for the beginner starting into the salt-water aquarium.


Blennies and Gobies are small elongated fish that live on the sea bottom and are easily mistaken for each other. Blennies have a continuous dorsal fin divided into the anterior and posterior, no scales and are mucus covered. Gobies have small scales and two dorsal fins. Both have usually bright color schemes and are very pleasant fish. Jawfish fish usually burrow and can be very skittish, a deep substrate is need for their burrowing habits.

Damselfish are amazing animals and very personable. Most Clowns will use a host such as a “bubble tip” anemone but can become very aggressive when established in a system for a period of time. Clowns are born neither male nor female. When they reach adulthood, the largest becomes the female. They should be kept in pairs and never mixed unless they are in a very large system. They will accept a great variety of foods and are usually very hardy. Damsels have many of the same characteristics of Clowns but can be kept in a group and will “school” together at times. Damsels can also become very aggressive in an established system.

Angels are one of the most majestic fish in the oceans. Their variety of bold colors and personalities make them a favorite of many marine caretakers. They can be very aggressive especially with their own genus and should be kept singly. The key to Angel success is a large system with lots of room and a variety of foods. Many Angels feed on corals so care should be taken when placing them in a reef tank. Although mainly vegetarian, a protein-based food should be given from time to time. Most Pacific Angels look completely different as juveniles then they do as adults.

Puffers have personalities that many people have referred to as “dog” like. There have been many stories of people talking of their Puffers following their finger around the tank or always coming to the surface when they come close to the tank. Puffers will nip at all corals and should not be kept in a reef tank. They may be aggressive to small inhabitants in the tank.

Tangs are some of the most beautiful fish to be kept in a marine system. They make excellent algae eaters for a reef system and can be kept with other species of its genus as long as there is 3 or more. They can be very territorial and should be feed actively to avoid aggression.

Setting Up Your Aquarium

Often, the first failures of breeding, or keeping tropical fish, is in the very beginning. This is a very rough time as you begin to develop a feel for the hobby, and it is very easy to quit despite the money put into the project.


The first and most important thing to your hobby surviving, is the set up of your tank. Before you set up your aquarium, make sure you have all the important things already purchased as well (such as heater, aerator). You may also want to have all the decorations purchased as well, instead of only having a few plants to provide shelter, and rocks to line the bottom.

First wash the aquarium with a solution of aquarium salt, make sure to rinse it well, then place upon your chosen piece of furniture. Make sure that your chosen place will not be affected if there is a water leak in the aquarium.

To be sure that there aren’t any leaks before you set up aquarium fixtures, leave tank full to about two inches from the top for twenty-four hours. After twenty-four hours, check for leaks. If you discover leaks, they can be fixed by applying aquarium cement. This can be found at a super center, or a pet dealership.

After cleaning, and checking your tank for leaks, it is time to clean your gravel. Be sure to choose a coarse gravel as opposed to a finer gravel, or sand. In a breeding tank you can also use marbles, “Dragon’s Tears” (flat colored glass), or smooth river rocks purchased at a store. Never use rocks that you pick from a lake or a pond unless you soak them in a strong solution of aquarium salt for 24-48 hours. Otherwise you could introduce harmful bacteria or other nastiness.

When choosing gravel figure about two pounds per gallon of water, if you plan on using marbles, purchase enough that the entire tank (except for back) will be covered. Before you add gravel or marbles to your set-up, wash them thoroughly by placing a package in a bucket and run water over the gravel until all dirt has been washed free. Do not use soaps or detergents.

Because this is the first time setting up this aquarium, do not worry about treating the tap water with a chlorine neutralizer. You must leave the tank running for 42-78 hours before adding any fish. By that time the aerator will have neutralized the chlorine and chloramine. It is wise to have these neutralizing chemicals in case you need to do a drastic water change in the future, however, if only changing one or two gallons of water in a weekly water change, it isn’t needed either.

Happy Holidays to a Fishkeeper

So the Holidays are upon us and someone you love is a fish nut, be it your husband, your girlfriend, or even your little nephew. You don’t quite understand it, or maybe you do, but this loved one’s passion is fulfilled by underwater life, scaled dioramas of the lakes and seas.


Okay, so this column isn’t directly related to Tropical Fish of South America, but it applies. To my regular readers searching for my latest experiences with catfish or cichlids, I apologize, but will do my best to post a second article towards the end of the month related to our more typical fare. This topic has just been on my mind for a couple weeks now since I’ve gone about composing my own Christmas list. Perhaps it will save someone from making a poor decision and head off the possibility of a titanic Yuletide flop!

Here is the rule, follow this and it covers probably ninety percent of all dilemmas: DO NOT PURCHASE LIVESTOCK AS A GIFT!!! Even if you’ve heard him or her griping over a water change, “My tank lacks color, I really need to pick up an Oscar to set things off,” or “The bottom of my tank is filthy, if I only could find a nice school of cories to add to the mix,” “What I would give for an Asian Arowana-alas it’s well beyond my price range” (Thank goodness!).

You do not know how to care for this gift prior to the giving-if you do know how, and I apologize for assuming you didn’t, you still shouldn’t make a fish into a gift. Now a gift certificate to his or her favorite local pet shop-that’s a great gift!

Okay though, you sneer at my words, I can take care of a stupid fish pal, c’mon. Okay, you go to the pet shop looking for an Oscar. Do you know what size to get? Are you guessing? Do you realize that it will eat up all of those little neon fish in his 20-gallon tank, before outgrowing the tank itself in a couple of months, and that what you overheard was just a pipedream? Oh, it’s a hundred-gallon tank and you distinctly heard that they were looking for a four-inch specimen to grow out. The pet shop has a tank with half a dozen such fish-which one do you buy? Do you know what to look for? Okay, hopefully I’ve convinced you, if not you’re a lost cause anyway, and we can move on to safer purchases.

Fish Diseases: Treatments

While several diseases were mentioned last time, there are also many causes of death in fish that have nothing to do with bacteria, parasites, or fungi. Overcrowding is the cause for Carbon Dioxide Poisoning, and that can be prevented by making sure that the aquarium contains only 2 inches (without fins) of fish, per gallon. Fish will remain at the surface of the water before they die.


Live plants that have died and are decomposing will sully the water and cause fish to die. It is good to make a habit of observing your tank, and paying close attention to everything that is inhabiting the tank. When plants begin to decay the air around the tank , or room tank is in, may begin to smell acrid.

Bug sprays, scented sprays, perfume, ect. have killed millions of fish. Never spray these products in the room that contains the aquarium. Objects in the tank that have been washed with soap and water can also kill your fish if they are not rinsed out properly before being replaced. Hands should always be washed after using poisons, and it should be made a practice to wash hands even if you haven’t handled such products.

Listed below are a few drugs, and other treatments that can be used for the diseases, bacteria, and fungi that were mentioned in the last article. Most of these chemicals, drugs, or dyes are easy to acquire at your local pet shop or super center. Some might even be found in your own home.

Always remember to read labels before purchasing items. Some products say they will cure a disease, but may not have the proper ingredients to do so. Also, compare prices as this can get very costly.

While most of these come in bottles with droppers and easy to follow instructions, I have included the old time stock solution recipes, and these are the few.

Acriflavin: Make stock solution of 1 grain to 8 ounces of water. Add 1 tablespoon to 5 gallons of water. Water change is not needed unless fish begin to swim only at the surface. Treats Saprolegnia, Velvet

Copper Sponge: Place non-medicated copper sponge in aquarium. If the fish begin to receive too much copper, they will keep to the surface of the water. Remove the sponge, and perform a partial water change. Add 12 pennies per gallon of water to treat Velvet.

Formalin: 8 drops per quart of water

Keeping Up With Your Fish

Being able to keep track of what is going on in your aquarium is very important, especially as a breeder. Knowing what fish dropped a brood, and how many survived to adulthood is important information that can’t be kept in the brain. Also notes on your aquarium equipment, what happened when you set up your tank and introduced new fish, when you changed your filter and water, all need to be noted. It helps to keep yourself informed on the progress of your tank, breeder or not!


The first thing that I suggest is buying a composition notebook. I entitled mine “Something Fishy: Notes on Fish Keeping and Breeding”. In this notebook I write the date, and underneath I write ideas and notes on my aquarium maintenance. A sample entry would be:

“Breeder “Blue” dropped 25 fry today. This is the largest brood she has ever had. Father of this brood is, “Flame Tail”. It will be interesting to see what markings these fry grow into. Also, changed filters in all three tanks, and the Beta vases were also cleaned and water changed.”

In this notebook I also affix store receipts, and make notations on additions of fish (with graphic description of their size and color, who they will be paired up with), when I sell or lose a fish (reason), and when I add equipment or invertebrates to any of my aquariums. I also note the products that I have used to treat diseases, if they worked or not, and write reviews of foods. “Fry don’t like tropical flakes, they ignore it and it only stinks up the tank.” When I go to buy new food I’ll remember not only because I thought that while watching the fry, but because I wrote it immediately after.

Another great thing about this notebook is that it is on hand. I keep it beside my breeding and fry tanks, while I am doing my daily observation I jot down notes about the fish behavior, or when I move more mature fish down to the selling tank. I am able to keep track of everything, and if I can’t remember something off the top of my head, I have the confidence that I wrote it down in my book.

In addition to my Something Fishy notebook, I also have a free account at eFishTank. At this website I am able to record births, deaths, equipment, tank maintenance, tank history, and also provides handy calculators. Now I have an electronic journal of events, and if something happens to my notebook I am still able to have my records.