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FAQs on Freshwater Filtration

Related Articles: Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Power Filter Impressions,  A review of some popular mechanical filtration systems by Steven Pro,  Canister Filters By Steven Pro, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for Beginners

Related FAQs:  FW Filtration 2, Biological Filtration, Establishing CyclingFW Sponge Filters, FW Canister Filters, FW Hang-on Filters, Ultraviolet Sterilizers, Chemical Filtrants, Diatom Filtration,

Hydrosponge... superior

Treating New Water Hi Chuck, Thank you for your quick reply and great advice. I wanted to know if I bought a Brita system would I also treat that with a water conditioner to eliminate Chloramines? < As long as the ion exchange resin is working properly you no not need to add any water conditioner unless you were after a specific affect.> How long do I let the treated tap water sit before I put it in the tank? a day, several hours? < I would let it sit out a day.> Are there any signs goldfish exhibit if they're in distress from bad water? < Heavy breathing would be the first sign of stress.> Would you recommend a special filter that should be used in the tank? Currently I use a Whisper Micro Filter with activated carbon and ammonia fighting crystals. I will buy a new filter system once I move because I plan to get at least a 75-150 gallon tank. Thanks again for all your great advice. Sharon Headrick < For large tanks I have a preference to the Marineland Emperor Series. They are very easy to service and I really like the Bio-Wheel feature.-Chuck>

Freshwater Refugium Crew, I currently have a 75 gallon discus tank connected to an AMiracle wet/dry that I'd like to convert into a refugium. The wet/dry is 24 x 10 x 14 inches (not sure of gallons volume). The tank has been set up for only two months, the 5 discus (2.5 inch size) have been in there for 3 weeks. They are currently the only fish in the tank. Much to my chagrin, the tank has been experiencing a lush algae bloom (green). I'm using only remineralized R/O water for water changes and evaporation top-off. I keep the pH at 7, the temperature stays at 86 degrees, ammonia and nitrites are always at 0, and my nitrates have been hovering between 12.5 and 25. My conductivity is around 125-150 uS and the KH is near 1 degree (yes, I constantly monitor the pH). The lighting is an 80 watt total dual strip with regular fluorescents. The tank is heavily planted with FAKE plants and three large pieces of driftwood. I'd like to remove the bio-balls (nitrate factory) entirely to provide a higher quality of water. I have done the WWM Google search, read everything relevant, and still have a few remaining questions: 1). Bacteria Colony. I am an aggressive gravel vacuumer, thus, I'd like a strong colony of the two beneficial bacteria strains in the sump rather than rely on the gravel for such. For salt water systems, you recommend adding live rock to the sump. How can I get this same effect in a freshwater refugium? I was thinking of adding three large lava rock pieces. Any ideas? I would remove some of the bioballs, add the lava rock, allow the rock to culture bacteria for 6 weeks or so, and then remove the rest of the bioballs altogether. I don't want to remove all the bioballs right away b/c the tank is still on the newer side. Is 6 weeks long enough to accrue a bacteria colony that will ensure a smooth transition (no ammonia / nitrite spikes) on the lava rock? < Look at the Tidepool system by Marineland. The large BioWheel will take care of any ammonia or nitrite you can throw at it. It is really a slick system. I have used them on a couple large cichlid tanks. They are very easy to clean and you can also vacuum the bottom of it if needed. Add Bio-Spira and get the thing up and going right away.> 2). Overflow side of sump. The overflow water enters the top-right portion of the sump, is filtered through a small square of fiber cloth, and then flows through the drip plate. Should I leave this as it is, or remove the drip plate and cloth? What do you recommend for arranging the right side of the sump? <All the particulates and solids need to be removed before the water hits the biological filtration. If you remove the drip plate and cloth then you may need another type of prefilter depending on what type of filtration you end up with.> 3). Plants. I'd like to use floating water sprite exclusively. The wet/dry's superior oxygenation-ability neutralizes any CO2 that may be in the water. Thus, floating the plants will allow them to pull CO2 from the air and keep them healthy. At least that's my theory. Will this work, or am I off base somehow? < This will work just fine and you are on the right track. With the water temp at 86 degree F this will probably be too high for the water sprite but it is worth a try.> 4). Lighting. I want to use a small, run-of-the-mill aquarium light that is usually sold for five or ten gallon setups. I'd run the sump light on a night schedule to stabilize the pH. My question is: if I leave the diffuser plate and filter cloth as is on the overflow side, and am relegated to putting the water sprite solely on the return side of the sump, will I have a problem with them getting sucked into the pump (Surge 6000, 870 GPH potential, running at 600 GPH due to 4' of tubing) ? < All plants generate waste from either spent leaves or roots that will eventually travel to the direction of the water and accumulate. You should continuously thin the plants and clean the detritus before it clogs something up.> I do not want to add a substrate to the sump to minimize cleaning / other headaches. I realize that my idea is not a true "refugium" by definition, but I didn't know what else to call it (quasi-refugium?). I plan to add another 2-4 discus, an LDA 33 Snowball Pleco, and a tribe of Kuhli loaches down the road. I look forward to your response. Mike < Do indeed look at the Tidepool and see if you can modify your set up to include the principles designed into this system.-Chuck>

FW filtration hello crew!  I am planning on setting up a 90 gal freshwater community tank in the near future.  I have been in and out of the hobby for years so I have a good idea of what I am doing but there is always room for advice.  My question is on filtration.  In your opinion, do you think I would be better off using a Fluval 404, Eheim 2028, or 2 AquaClear 500 hang on filters. <For? What sort of system, livestock? Most often likely the two hang ons would be better... but a heavily planted system would be better served with a canister... the Eheim is a far superior product than the Fluval> I have used the hang on's before but never a canister.  Would one canister be sufficient if I go that route? <Depends on the amount, kind of life, your maintenance otherwise...>   I know performance is the most important factor but I would also like the least amount of noise.  I have no clue if canisters are quieter than the 500's I suggested. <The Eheim, discounting possible discharge splash, is virtually silent>   If they are quieter and perform better then that's what I will do.  Keep up the good work.  It is wonderful to have a place to go and find the answers to the many questions we all have.  Thanks again, Ben <Glad to offer you my input. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Skimming I have a very large tank of wild crater lake cichlids from Nicaragua. Being wild fish, they are a bit sensitive to water quality than their tank raised cousins, yet they still create the same (huge) volumes of waste. I have effectively utilized skimmers on marine tanks for years, and I know that they are less effective in freshwater environments do to the difficulty in getting freshwater to foam. Recently, some friends of mine in Greece (I'm in the USA) told me about their success using skimmers on their Malawi tanks. Also, I have seen that Schuran makes a "freshwater skimmer." What are your thoughts? Would the Schuran be good for my application? Perhaps a Euro (needle wheel design help create bubbles in FW?) or Aqua-C? I know there's no evidence like practical use, and I'm prepared to experiment. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks! < If you think about it, when you set up a Malawian tank, the pH is high and there are usually many minerals in the water to keep it hard and alkaline. Many aquarists add some salt too. This makes it pretty similar to a saltwater tank in many respects. These conditions would make a protein skimmer somewhat more effective than in an aquarium with soft acidic water like for discus. I would check the water quality before and after installing the skimmer and compare the results.  It definitely will help, it is just to what degree and does it make it worth the cost and effort. Smaller bubbles are better than larger bubbles in a skimmer. Don't expect the get that fine mist of bubbles that you see in a saltwater tank.-Chuck.> Ozone for small aquarium Hi I have an ozone water treatment device called Nature Kleen that says it produces 250mg hour.  What are your thoughts on my connecting it directly to my air stone in my 33 gallon tank with goldfish? <Mmm, well... this IS quite a bit of O3 for such a size system... 100 mg/h would do... AND you don't mention other aspects of given (source water) quality of the water... so... given what you present here I would NOT utilize this device> Can I run it for 10 minutes or so and improve the water quality? <Nominally> Some sites suggest treating an 8oz glass for a 10 gallon tank for 5 minutes and adding that.  I want the best for my fish but I don't want to harm them if you know what I mean. I appreciate your time in this. Christian <I would develop a routine of regular water changes... gravel vacuuming once a week... much better, safer for your fish than getting involved with ozone. Save this unit for when you have larger, marine systems. Bob Fenner>

Re: ozone for small aquarium Thanks for your time and opinion!  I appreciate it!  Christian <You're welcome... did you read over the materials we have (mainly for marine systems, but apply to FW): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ozonefaqs.htm  Bob Fenner>

I'll give ya 5 bucks to answer my question! Large FW filtration Hello all, I've written before and feel a bit more organized now. <Ah, good> Setting up my 300 gallon now.(72x30x31). The filters I decided on are 2 2028 Eheims. I know they are rated for 160 gallon tanks per filter. I know in the real world filter ratings are boosted and will quickly diminish with time. O.k. sorry for the rant. 1. Will they be effective together or do I need more. (assuming a 10-15% water change weekly) <Likely... given the fish livestock you list below, you can get by with the above filtration and water changes... I would add some more circulation... either good-sized power heads or an external pump, manifold...> 2. Any other filter types to suggest? Problem is the tank is Euro- braced around the top 3.5". HOB won't work. <I like large sumps with big tanks... easier to manipulate gear there... increased volume benefits... a big tote would be my choice... with heat, mechanical, chemical filtration removed there> 3. Do I need extra air source/stone because of the depth. This filter question has been bothering me for months. I'm stuck with the Eheims. I was going to go with the 2260. For up to 400 gallon tanks but heard the 2028 was more efficient.  Fish will be Mbu, Aro, Giraffe cat.  Extra detail greatly appreciated. Thanks Mike  Send an address so I can tip you. <Our Amazon "begging bowl" is posted on WetWebMedia.com's homepage, indices... Bob Fenner>

A bit of Clarification. Pardon the pun. Hello all, I guess I need a bit more info. on filtration. I looked through the site and need something more specific. I'm putting up a 300g fresh tank. I figure on Aro's, Mbu's and maybe a giraffe cat or similar.  <Neat... do keep the Mbu/s fed well... they can take big chunks out of tankmates> From what I understand, the main reasons for a wet/dry is to increase O2 to the filter as saltwater inherently carries less oxygen. <Mmm, this is one, secondary issue... mostly wet-dries are good for capacity and "rapid ramp-up" in nitrification... converting nitrogenous wastes to less noxious substances> The other thing I notice is that even with a large wet/dry, only a bit of the substrate is exposed to the water. For simplicity and quiet I was thinking of 2 Eheim 2028's. They hold 6 liters of media each (instead of the 15 oz.s. that the Magnums hold) and I figure that with the increased surface area of the media I should get better conversion. <This is so> The other reason is that the tank is "Euro-braced" at the top so I don't think I can use HOB filters. <Correct... does take some modification... if at all possible> I just don't like wet/dry's because of the noise and plumbing. Do you think the 2 2028's would work well or should I break down and do some type of wet-dry? <Mmm, well, this is one approach... and will work for quite a while... I would add some other pumping mechanism/s for aeration/circulation in addition to your canister filters> On a side note. . . don't frequent water changes assist with diminished filtration? Just seems people rely on filters too much instead of regular maintenance. Thanks, Mike <They do, and we're in agreement here. Bob Fenner, who does his water changes, gravel vacuuming on Sundays!>

Protein Skimmers for Fresh? Are protein skimmers of any value with a freshwater aquarium? Thanks, Dennis < Not really. Proteins are more soluble in fresh water then they are in salt water, so they don't really accumulate at the surface like they do in salt water.-Chuck>

Filtration for 120 gal I am setting up a new 120 gal (28" X 28" X 31" tall) tank and though I've read all the info on filtration I can find, I'm still not sure on what would be the best method for me. <Maybe not the best, but the better of the choices?> For tank load we're still deciding which variety/varieties of cichlids to purchase, along with a  pleco, and hopefully something else large/hardy enough to endure the cichlids that will provide some activity in the upper/mid water column.   <I see... many options here. I have two aquariums, of African Cichlids... important to assure that they will mix> From reading your FAQ's on filtration, I understand that I should probably consider returning some/all of the filtered water to the tank over one or more bio-wheels.  I will be running a foam fractionator to keep water quality excellent though I am unsure if I should run this in-line with the main filter, attached to a sump in some other way, or simply hanging on the back, independent of the other filtration.   <Uh, excuse me? A protein skimmer will not work on hard, alkaline freshwater... You've only just begun to study filtration> The big question for me is, how should I do the bulk of my filtration, canister or wet/dry.   <...> Either way, I wonder if I should return some of the filtered water to the tank with a reverse UG so no detritus would collect in the gravel for digging cichlids to stir up.  Is that compatible  with live plants? <No> I'm sure it could create problems for open substrate breeding cichlids, but with a pleco in the tank, I think we'll have to stick to cave or mouth brooders anyway.   Thanks for your help. -AC <Put the time necessary into your project here... READ: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and the linked files at top, AND the section on Cichlid System FAQs. And consider going through some of the survey works on cichlids by Paul Loiselle. Bob Fenner> Filtration for a big FW tank Hello all, I have a question that I need an answer to quickly!  Of course I was stupid and ordered a 300 gallon tank without thinking about filtration.  I am open to any suggestion but need to act quick in case I need the glass cut for overflows etc.  I have had a couple thoughts. 1.  A big Eheim canister 2260 with fluidized filters hanging on. 2.  2-3 Magnum 350's with the fluidized. 3.  Wet dry system (not sure which type would be best or whether to have bulkheads or a siphon overflow. Probably will keep aro's and rays along with others like giraffe cats.  Messy, I know. Any help greatly appreciated.  I'm open to other filter suggestions! Thanks, Mike <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfiltration.htm and the Related FAQs (linked, in blue, at top). Much to consider... function, operational costs, time... the types of life you intend to keep... your options. Bob Fenner>

FW filtration, water changes Thanks, I had bought the tank used and was using the gravel that came with it for temporary use until I can get something else, you can hook a gravel washer up to the magnum and if you take the nozzle off of it, its powerful enough to suck the gravel right up and it doesn't get into the impeller, so that's how I plan to remove it without upsetting pacu. <Better to change water while vacuuming the gravel. Bob F>

A FW Sump Discussion Hi Chuck, I have a question about sumps. I'm planning a purchase of a 180 gallon tank (for new world cichlids). I have enough filtration to cover this size already, but was considering installing perhaps a 30 or 55 gallon sump underneath, to use primarily as a plant refugium. I haven't been able to find many accounts of people using sump tanks in freshwater set-ups. Do you think that it is a worthwhile project? < This all depends on what you ultimately want to do and what filtration you already have that will "cover" the tank. Large central American cichlids in general generate a great volume of waste. Once the waste is accumulated in the filter it needs to be removed. Ammonia and nitrites need to be converted quickly to nitrates. The most limiting  item for the bacteria to do this job is oxygen. Assuming you have enough filtration to convert the ammonia and nitrites to nitrates then the last thing to worry about is nitrates. Nitrates can be converted to nitrogen gas under anaerobic conditions. Nitrate could be diluted with water changes to acceptable levels (under 25 ppm for most fish). Plants will remove ammonia ,nitrite and nitrate when properly lighted. I would work in small stages. Set up the tank the way you want with the fish you want to keep. If ammonia and nitrite are a problem then you need either more bacteria to convert the waste, remove the waste through live plants or reduce the concentrations by water changes. If the water changes become to time consuming then you may want to thing about an automatic water changing system or the plant refugium. The plant refugium will not replace the need for some water changes.> I was hoping the plants would help oxygenated the whole system and purify the water. I could divide the tank into 3 sections - water in - trickle over bio-balls - into the planted tank - out through submersible pump. Would I need to have the tank drilled, or can I use a HOB overflow with a siphon. < A HOB overflow system properly designed would be fine.> Well, I've never run a sump before, and I don't know if the risks of failures or flooding outweigh the benefits in my situation. I'd really appreciate your advice. < I really like the use of wet dry filters on big non-planted tanks. Take a look at the Marineland Tidepool sump system with the SOS skimmer.-Chuck> Centrifugal Sediment Filter? 11/27/04 Hello! In the past, I have found excellent advice from your website.  However, I haven't found anything about this: <Yikes!  I though we knew everything!  Just kidding, of course we don't but let's see...> Is there such a thing as using a centrifugal sediment pre-filter in an aquarium set-up?  It is used extensively in industrial applications and at first glance at least, appears could be very beneficial with my large and messy cichlids. <I am aware of such systems for industrial applications, but I have not seen such systems for home use.> I am using a canister system, with an external pump, so such a pre-filter could be easily added.  It could radically reduce my frequent cartridge filter cleaning requirements. <Sounds like a great idea, but I suspect that you may do better with a settling tank.> From my limited understanding, a cylinder, or inverted cone is used. Water is injected at the side near the top, with an outflow tube mounted to the top center and extending halfway down the center.  It creates a vortex inside that effectively "slings" the heavier particles to the outside, where they slide to the bottom.  A valve is at the bottom to periodically dump the accumulated waste. <This is similar to my understanding, but my hunch is that this is a "Batch operation" where the separation tank is filled, vortexes, allowed to settle and then the clean water is removed.  I am not sure that such a system is feasible for continuous operation.  I used to be an avid home-brewer and volunteered in a commercial brewery.  We used such a batch vortexing system to remove solids from the wort (unfermented beer).> Do you know of any success using such a device with aquariums?  Or, if there are any DIY plans for them? Thank you, Jim <I don't know of any of either of the above.  My suggestion would be to research industrial applications of this technique and copy the design.  Good luck!  AdamC.>

Filter for a 55 I have a 55 gallon aquarium with carbon filter that are inserts. I have heard rave reviews about the Biowheel. Is this better than the filter I have now? What would you recommend that is the best that I can get. It always seems that my tank gets cloudy after a few days no matter how much I change the water or change the filters. I was really just wondering what would be the best type of filtration system to use, I was not happy with the underwater gravel one.  Thank you so much for your time. Melissa Putman <If that UGF is still in the tank, I would remove it completely. Don't leave it in there, even if it is not running. I am a big fan of Marineland's Emperor 400 filters. I use two on my 55 gallon Pleco tank. One is plenty for normal stocking levels. Once cycled they do a great job clearing ammonia and nitrite from the water. There are some upkeep issues with them. They have a pair of large bio wheels that are driven by water pumped thru spray arms. The spray arms clog every once in a while. Easy to correct, but you do have to keep an eye on them. Of course water changes are still needed. As in any bio filtration, deadly ammonia is converted first to nitrite, then nitrate. Establishing the two bacteria needed for this is called "cycling". Water changes are then done to keep the safer nitrate in check. You also need a freshwater test kit. This is very important. However the cloudy water problem may not be a filtration problem. Overfeeding and failure to use a gravel vac are more likely. It's caused by bacteria eating and reproducing in the nutrient rich water. If you cut back feeding and remove as much waste and uneaten food from the bottom it will starve out and your water will clear. Happens to me all the time. I just siphon out the waste in the gravel while removing 15 to 20 gallons of water. It clears in a few hours to a day. Until I let it go again, anyway. Don>  

Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate? Thank You for the response Chuck. I understand what you are saying. But, my siphon tubes are extended about 2" below the water level in the intake box, the intake box bottom is about 2 1/2" below water level and the slots in the intake box extend about 1" below water level. In the back box the siphon tubes are 1" longer than they are in the intake box. There is a weir in the back box between the siphon tubes and the 1 1/2" Durso stand pipe drain, the top of this weir is positioned 1/2" below the slots and a 1/2" above the siphon tube bottoms in the intake box to maintain a siphon during a power loss. While the system in running the water level in the back box behind the weir at the standpipe is about 2" below the normal tank level, but only about an 1" below the weir. Could my weir be causing back pressure on the siphon tubes and if it is how would I maintain a siphon during a power loss without it? < Measure the actual pump volume at the current aquarium level. If it is at least 300 gallons per hour then it is OK. A rate of 400 to 500 gallons per hour would be better. Increase the pumping rate slowly until it looks like the system cannot handle any more and measure the pump rate again. This will be the maximum capacity of the system. As the water level in the aquarium increases then the flow rate of the siphon between the two water levels should also increase. To increase the flow rate between the two boxes I would make sure that the friction in the siphon tubes was kept to a minimum by making sure that they were clean. If you decide to lower the weir then I would make sure I had a longer siphon tube as it exits into the outer box.-Chuck> Thank You Much Rich Ducham

Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate? Thanks for the advice again Chuck. A few days ago I raised the water level in the main tank (as you explained the first time, my bad) as the sump level began to rise I slowly opened the valve on the return line from the pump. By having a little patience, I now have the valve almost full open. I seem to have to add about a 1/2 gallon of water each morning due to evaporation to keep the sump level where needed this keeps the proper flow through my weir system to turn my bio wheels. I had set it up originally that on a power outage the sump would fill to within about 6 gallons of being full to avoid overflows. After raising the main tank level to increase the flow I did another power outage test, it fills the sump to within about 3 gallons of full (close but no overflows!!!!). I put a small rotometer from work on the drain and measured ~1175 gph. Amazing how a little higher level in the main tank can affect the drain flow so drastically. So to reward myself I added a male and a female Demasoni to the tank crew today, 20 little mbuna baddies!!!! Now my wife said I can start a saltwater tank, so I may have more questions down the road:-) Thanks for the time to answer back it made a world of difference. I knew those chemies weren't all their cracked up to be!!!! LOL < If the water backs up into the sump through the hose running from the pump into the tank then you need to get a one way check valve that will prevent this from happening during power outages. Go to Drsfostersmith.com and check out the valves.-Chuck> Thanks, Rich D.

Re: increase hob overflow box flow rate? Thanks again Chuck. I tested the system again. When I cut the power to the return pump the water in the overflow box drains to the sump until the main tank level reaches the bottom of the intake box slots. The return line also then drains back to the sump (the lowest point of the return manifold piping in the tank is even with the bottom of the intake box slots). After water flow has stopped draining back to the sump from the drain line and return line the water stops rising at about 2" from the top of the sump. Does that sound OK or am I still missing something and may have a flood? < If this is the most water you have in your sump then you should be OK . The Marineland SOS system does not continue to siphon after the power is turned off. You may want to take a look at that system to look at the way they prevent any further siphoning. Usually the water siphons back to the sump through he pump hose from the aquarium. That is why I recommended the check valve. If the water still siphons through the main drain line then a check valve would be useless.-Chuck> Rich D.

Want some information about FW filtration system Hello Sabrina/Bob: This is Ahmed again from Pakistan (KARACHI). How are you? <Fine my friend, thank you> I am quite happy that you reply to all of my mails and include them in your FAQ's. It's your greatness I mean, I am very thankful to you. This time I mail you because I have some problems in my aquarium's filtration system. My aquarium's size is 60*24*15. It is operated with 4 Under Gravel filters and 1 Life Tech (AP1600) Power Filter. I plug in my power filter occasionally (normally 5 hours daily or when I feel that my water is getting cloudy or dusty) My aquarium's water was CRYSTAL CLEAR but for the last one month it has not been looking CRYSTAL CLEAR (I mean it is looking dusty and cloudy especially at the time of feeding when I turn off all off my filters). I change my aquarium's water twice in a month. I use tap water in my aquarium. I have WHITE SILICA SAND (gravel) in my aquarium. <Yikes... Silica is not a good choice for gravel... as you will see by reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubstrates.htm I encourage you to switch this out with a more suitable substance when you can> I have: 7 Bala Sharks (2 of them are 8 inches & others are of 4) 3 Clown Loaches (2 of them are 5 inches in size & 1 is of 3 inches) 1 Rainbow Shark (5 inches) I wanna ask that: 1. Is my filtration system (also the type of filtration) enough for the number of fishes that I have mentioned above? <Yes, should be, once it is fully established biologically> 2. Should I use my power filter regularly or occasionally? (I have heard that power filters disturb the fishes) <Best to have it operating continuously... to leave it on all the time> 3. What sort of problems I am facing with my aquarium's water, why it is not crystal clear which it is used to be? <Possibly a few things here... biological succession (microbial wars!), a shifting chemistry in the silicate-based medium...> 4. Should I do water changes more fluently or twice in a month is enough? <Better to do every half-month, or even weekly (which is what I do)> 5. What should I do to make my water crystal clear as it was? Hope you will reply me. Thanks, Sheikh Mohammad Ahmed. <Consider changing the gravel out... turn and leave your filters on continuously... be patient! Bob Fenner> Sponge Filter Questions Hi Don, Below you mention "... NEVER clean the sponge." If I reuse the same sponge over-and-over without cleaning it won't the sponge get dirty, smelly or create a blockage? How long should I keep the sponge before it needs to be replaced and if replaced, should I do a 100% water change? Thanks, Mario D. <Hi Mario, Don again. A dirty sponge filter is a good filter. It's the bacteria in the sponge that keep the water fresh. This is "bio-filtration". If it gets so dirty that it clogs up then rinse it out in some tank water. If you rinse it out with tap water the chlorine will kill the good bacteria. Even a "tank water rinse" can remove a lot of the good bacteria. You should never have to replace it. And after this bio filtration is established you never have to (or should) do a 100% water change. Even without bio-filtration small, frequent, particle water changes are far better than 100% changes>

Filter: how do I prime? Hi Bob <Marcus> I'm desperate.  I have a Tetratec PF500.  I bought it a few yrs ago and it seems to work great for my 80gal tank (just for tropical fish).  But we have since moved and I can not get it to prime.  I have no idea where the book is It seems to be running fine I just can't prime it for anything.  Is it broke or am I doing something wrong??? Can you please help??   Thank you in advance Kim <Likely all you have is a bit of air "locked" in around the impeller... with the unit turned on, reach in and invert, and shake the filter side to side... you should see the air discharged, water flowing from the discharge. If all else fails, do write Tetra for help: http://www.tetra-fish.co.uk/tetratropical/products/pageTEMPLATE.asp?productID=288 Bob Fenner> 220 gallon tank hi I have just purchased a 220 gallon tank and I am wonder what kind of filters to use I know I want canister filters the tank is going to be fresh water and also how many do u think I need < Since you already want canister filters I would only recommend a minimum of two Marineland Magnum filters with the optional BioWheel attachments. The two of them will pump 700 gallons per hour when clean. If you have a hard time keeping up you could add a third one.-Chuck> Ty Jerry Messer

Question about sponge filter and a good book for info. Hi Crew, I changed the water (100%) once a week, I add water conditioner to the tip water that I have sitting for a couple of days, and added some aquarium salt, at a water temperature just above 70. I have the male Betta in a half gallon jar and the female in a oval shape half gallon container. Would either of them benefit from a sponge filter in a jar or in the container a half gallon size. What are to pro and cons of adding a filter. They seem fine without one, but would it be healthier for them with a filter. I use a lamp to heat the water at night when it gets cold in the room. The water conditioner, I use says it "... adds beneficial electrolytes and guards against secondary infection ...", What does that all mean? Is the good or just a sales pitch? Also, do you know of a good book on the ins and outs about taking care of Bettas. Thanks, Mario D. <Hi Mario, Don here. A sponge filter is like an airstone with a sponge formed around it. The rising bubbles draw water through the sponge. This will provide little help in removing solid waste. They produce little current, which is good for the Betta. The big advantage is in bio filtration. The sponge provides a living space for beneficial bacteria that consume ammonia (fish waste and product of decay) and convert it to slightly less dangerous nitrite. A second bacteria then develops that converts the nitrite to far less harmful nitrate. This "cycle" will take about a month to establish. If you go with a sponge, reduce water changes to no more than 50% (siphoned from bottom) and NEVER clean the sponge. Tap water will kill the bacteria. After everything is established you can reduce water changes to about 20% per week and your water will be cleaner, fresher. Another advantage, if you get fry, "Sponge Squeezins" is a great first food for the tiny mouths. Disadvantage number one is that the bubbles may destroy the males nest in such small containers. I would but the male in a 5 gallon tank with the filter at one end. Reduce the air flow if needed. Add a heater! Important always, but vital when breeding. If you get fry you will need a bigger tank anyway, so get it now and start the cycling. I use only dechlorinator in tanks with well established bio filtration. Rarely is anything more called for.>     

Recommended micron rating for cartridge system Hello Bob, I've enjoyed reading some of the advice you give us non-pro's out there. I am wondering if you can offer a suggestion as to what rate of micron cartridges I should use in my setup.  Firstly, the setup itself: I have large (some over 12") cichlids, which can of course be VERY messy! 180 gallon acrylic tank (homemade of course [smile]) two  2 1/2" x 20" cartridge housings hooked up in tandem connected to a 1,200 gph pump I use a sponge pre-filter to remove the large waste. I have been using some 20 micron twine wound cartridges since I first setup the system (thanks to some freebee's from a professional plumber cousin), but I need to now purchase new. While I've had some success cleaning and reusing these, they have become hopelessly clogged. I'm thinking that the polyester pleated type would be the best, since they can be cleaned and reused again and again, but what would be the best micron size to use? obviously that the polyester pleated type would be the best, since they can be cleaned and reused again and again, but < I would try a 25 micron cartridge and see how it works. This is what the ocean clear filters use for their large systems. This won't clean the water as well as the 20 micron cartridge but with those large messy cichlids you may not notice that much of a difference in the water quality. On a high note they will allow more water flow and may not have to be cleaned as often. I would still service the filter at least once every two weeks to keep the nitrates down.-Chuck> Canister Filter and Tank Setups Hey WWM Crew, I'm in need of some help to clear my confusion regarding canister filters and my setups, hope you can help. I've been swimming with the fishes for 3-4 years now and decided to take the leap into purchasing a canister filter or two for my freshwater tanks. I plan on using one for two 20Ls that will house some breeder apple snails and Hets, and their offspring.  <<Kewl!>> Another one will be used for either a 30 or a 33L that'll house yet more apple snails, a couple Bushynose catfish, a couple dwarf gouramis and a small group of something I'm currently unaware of. All tanks will be planted, the 30/33L more so than the 20Ls. <<I assume you are planning to feed the snails with these plants? The like carrots, too :)>> My confusion starts on how a canister filter takes in the water from the tank. I understand what happens inside the filter itself and the inlet/outlet but get lost on what goes into the tank to get the water out. <<Canister filters come with intake and return hoses and valves. The intake hose resembles the return hose, both attach to the filter, and are placed in the tank. Water is pulled down one hose to the canister, goes thru the canister, and is pumped back up the return hose and into the tank.>> I'm really embarrassed by this question because I should know... but I honestly don't. I've read over articles about using a powerhead and underwater jets with sponge filters attached (which I like the sound of) but cannot picture it. Do you accomplish this just be hooking up the inlet tubing to one powerhead/jet and another powerhead/jet to the outlet?? <<No, powerheads and internal filters run independently. Powerheads can be attached to undergravel filters, but we are not talking about that now. Canister filters and powerheads are two different things, you do not need one in order to use the other.>> Or do you do it by some other means?? The powerhead/jet and tubing thing makes sense to me but I just can't picture it in my head; some cannons just aren't firing in the right direction, lol. I've looked into both the Eheim Classic Plus line and the Filstar XPs. Do these sound like good choices to be investing in? Any experience or advice you can give?? <<You can choose either. I will explain the differences. The Eheim Classic 2213 may a bit more complicated to hook up and un-hook for maintenance. It has two valves, one on each hose, return and intake. The Classic series does not come with baskets inside, so rinsing media is a bit more tricky. Ideally, the Eheim Pro series would be better, e.g. the 2026, since it has the quick-release valves and baskets, but it's too large for your tanks. The Filstar is a good design for a beginner canister owner, it has quick-release valves, and baskets inside for easy cleaning. Filstar does not have Eheim's quality, but it's a pretty good filter and, like all filters, if properly maintained should give you years of good service. On all filters, keep your impellers clean!>> The last question I have is if you think it's a good idea to hook both the 20Ls to the same filter. Good? Bad?  <<Bad bad bad.>> I figure I could just rig the inlet/outlet tubing to go to each without too many problems but am I asking for trouble by doing this?? <<Don't make things complicated :) For the time being: KISS. Keep It Simple, Sir.>> As always, any and all help is greatly appreciated :) ~ Jamie <<You are most welcome. Feel free to ponder further. :) -Gwen>>

Canister filter Qs + tank setups Hey WWM Crew, <Jamie> A big ol' Thank You! to Gwen for answering my last email (the one below this one). It helped me picture what's happening with the canister filter. I'm sure it'll all be crystal clear once I bring one home, lol. I'm also hoping that the plants won't become snail food, hehe. The snails are Pomacea bridgesii effusa Apple snails, the ones that do not eat live plants and safe for the planted tank. They haven't eaten any of mine for the year or so I've had 'em so I think I'm in the clear, lol. <We'll see> Anyway, I have indeed pondered more and more about my setup with the 20Ls. Since putting them together with one canister filter is not a good idea, I've been thinking what would. Maybe two Whisper power filters, but I am afraid that the water turbulence may be too much for both inhabitants and plants, and that they wouldn't bring up much of the snail mess. <These are actually a good choice... not too turbulent...> Then I thought maybe sponge filters would work but wouldn't I be compromising space for my plants and the snail mess might still pose a problem. Any suggestions??? I'm open-minded and all ears :) <I would go with hang-on, outside power filters> Also, I've looked over more of the Eheim canister filters and found the Ecco Comfort Plus Filter 2232 and 2234. Is this a good one or should I just stick with the Filstar for either the 30 or 33L?? <I prefer the Ecco products over the Filstar> Sorry for all the questions, figured that while you're all available I should ask the pros everything I can ;)  And, as always, thanks for help, it is greatly appreciated :) ~ Jamie <Bob Fenner>

Freshwater filtration options hey bob, I loved your article on the various filter types out there.  I only keep fresh water tropical aquariums and am not intending on venturing into the marine environment as yet however I've got a question for ya.  I have recently bought a 7'x3'x2' glass aquarium and I'm after a filter for it... My question is ... can I use a trickle wet/dry filter system for a fresh water setup...I'm going to mainly keep large fish in there like Pacu's and TSN, RTC etc etc... < Absolutely. The larger fish will appreciate the clean oxygenated water. You do not need a protein skimmer.-Chuck> Tanz

Re: Help from Overseas Dear Gwen; Thank you very much for your response and help, I would like to ask one more question if I may, are the air bubbles produced from the filter essential to be in the tank, because my filter only produces them when it is clean when it get a little dirty it keeps circulating but stops the air bubbles. <<Hi there. The air bubbles produced by your filter may not be necessary, but your fish do need oxygen. You need to look at how much circulation there is in the tank in general. If the surface of the water is not moving, or if you think there is not enough circulation to keep the tank from having cold and hot spots, you may need to clean the filter more often, or perhaps you need a stronger filter to do the job.>> My intention was to only keep the two platys, but to my surprise last night I found a further 30 more baby platy's in the tank, do you think I should move them into a smaller tank. <<Well :) You may want to move them, yes. All that additional waste might put a strain on your water quality...perhaps there is a pet store near you that will buy your babies from you, or perhaps you can give some away to friends *grin*. Best of luck! -Gwen>> thanks in advance rgds MM

Fighting Off Cloudiness (Pt. 2) RE: Your suggestion to "incorporate some activated carbon into your mechanical filtration" <Okay...> Please tell me exactly what I need and how to do this-as this is a completely new element to fishkeeping for me.  There's all kinds of carbon in the bottom of the box my tank filters came in, but I wouldn't think I could just pour it in the filter without any kind of bag, or could I?   <Nope. You do need a media bag of some sort to contain it. Otherwise, you'll create a mess!> Also, what about putting a new filter in the body of that tank-in other words, in addition to the two filters already in use.  As I said, be as specific as possible in regard to how you'd accomplish incorporating this carbon, as I don't want to make the problem any worse than it already is.   <Sorry for the confusion. I'm basically advocating that you use (or continue to use, as the case may be) activated carbon in your filters. You can either use mesh filter bags to keep it in, and place them in your filters- or many manufacturers incorporate activated carbon in their filter cartridges. Either way, carbon is a great way to remove impurities and cloudiness in your water.> Lastly, and this may seem like a idiotic question, but should I get another Sword to keep the remaining Sword company? <Not an idiotic question at all! By all means, do add another if your tank can safely accommodate it. Many fish, like people, do enjoy companionship!>   Initially, I purchased 3, but one didn't survive the transition from store to tank and died quickly.  The other two seemed to be doing fine, plus my tank was starting to get crowded, so I didn't replace him.  Right now, the little guy/gal is swimming around with the other fish and seems to be okay, but I'd like your opinion on whether I should buy a buddy for him. He runs with the Mollies pretty well, but there's nothing like family, I suppose.  Your thoughts, please.   <Perhaps two female Swordtails would be the trick, if you can accommodate that> Thanks for all you do-it's great to have a fish friend and resource like you. Cyndy <So glad to be of service, Cyndy! We're all here for you every step of the way! Regards, Scott F.>

Filter media question Hi there, <Hello Antonio, MacL here with you this evening.> First of all, I would like to thank you guys for all the great info that you provide to all of us. <That's very kind of you, I'll pass it along> I just hope that you all will not stop the positive things you are providing. Currently I have a 5 inch golden Australian jardini- Arowana, and a 4 inch orange spotted pleco in a 20 gallon tank.   In a month, I will be transferring both of them into a 30 gallon- 36 inch long aquarium.   The tank will have a bare bottom, air pump, 8 inch air bubble band, a 250 watt digital titanium heater, and an emperor 400 power filter. My question is about filter media that I will be using.  The emperor 400 power filter has 4 slots (2 filter cartridges and 2 extra media trays).    1.)  during the break-in/cycling period, can I use Marineland's white diamond together with the 2 filter cartridges to properly cycle my tank? <They white diamond will slow down the cycle or perhaps stop it completely because in order to cycle you must have a rise in ammonia in which the bacteria can build up.  I understand what you are trying to do, at least I think I do, you would really like to do this very slowly> 2.)  after the cycle period, can I still continually use those white diamond for those extra media trays?  or will this cause any problems?  or do I need to just use Marineland's diamond blend for maintenance? <If you don't get a cycle you will need to continue use of it simply to handle the ammonia put out by these fish> 3.)  what are other filter media that I can use for those extra media trays that emperor 400 power filter provides....for daily maintenance of the tank?  <I do like the black diamond> 4.)  any recommendations for the extra media filters?  mechanical media? 5.)  with my 30 gallon set-up (1 golden jardini, 1 pleco, bare bottom, air pump, 8 inch air bubble band, a 250 watt digital titanium heater w/ thermometer, and an emperor 400 power filter).......do you still have any comments, suggestions that I need to do or add.....for a healthier tank? <I have to be honest here and tell you that I believe your Arowana is going to outgrow your bigger tank very quickly.  They are amazingly fast growers and I think that might cause you a problem soon. Good luck> thanks so much! Sincerely, Antonio

Filter media Hi there, <Hi Antonio>   thanks for your reply MacL! did I do my water cycle wrong?   <I just don't know that your tank has done a full and complete cycle where the ammonia has risen to the top and then come back down BUT you have got some bacteria build up in the tank. Its just a long slow process when you don't allow the ammonia to rise.  BUT you often have to do this when you have fish in the tank so you don't loose the fish to a high ammonia level.> My new aquarium arrived today.  I filled the 30 gallon tank and put recommended amounts of  aquarium salts and Kordon's Amquel detoxifier.   And ran my emperor 400 water filter w/ black diamond filter cartridges.   Then after 30 minutes, I also put two small fishes (guppies type). <Understood.> I guess....the ammonia build up was stopped..... <You used an ammonia remover so you might not have had any rise in ammonia at all. There are two ways to think of this, first you just haven't cycled at all and need to keep the ammonia remover in their always or second that you just gradually cut back on the amount of ammonia remover and let the bacteria build up slowly.> If I really messed up........are there any ways that I can fix this? <I don't think you really messed up, I think you just are doing your tank a different way. And perhaps a good way given the amount of ammonia the fish you have put out.> other questions: 1.)  when will I be able to use Marineland's white diamond? <You can use it at any point if you are aware of what it does and how it will affect things>  after the cycling period? <After the tank is cycled it will prevent a rise in ammonia, remember its purpose. And you are using it correctly, its to be used with fish that put out large amounts of ammonia.> 2.) together with the black diamond cartridges........do I need to use the white diamond....during the maintenance period? <The carbon will also remove ammonia and other types of detritus and clean the water.> 3.)  how about SeaChem's matrix bio media?  is this better for my set-up together with the black diamond........for maintenance? <The biomedia will set up a bacterial bed. It can be used in combination with both the black and white diamond as you feel necessary. It is what would run a cycle.> any more suggestions? <I think you are on the right track Antonia, I just want you to understand what your tank is doing. MacL> thanks for your help! Sincerely, Antonio

Freshwater Refugium? my email from chuck is below some more puzzlements. I seriously hope I'm not being a pest I'm just at a lack of any good reference material on this subject. so with this refugium as it were, to create this I can go two ways? basically I could plant the tank a little heavily and I guess heavily plant the refugium and this could be like a freshwater plant turf scrubber? < I would plant the tank heavily and use co2 injection and appropriate lighting. Use a canister filter or two as needed to provide circulation. Then check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. If properly done, I think that you will find that there are no readings. A wet dry filter will rid the co2 out of the water that is needed for the plants. The plants act as a filter as well as being pleasing to the eye. You could create an overflow system that would overflow the tank down to the refugium and then pumped back up to the main tank.> or I could use a DSB, I was going to use a powerhead so I could utilize the venturi to push the return flow from one end of the tank like the left side. would this be appropriate oxygenation? < All this is dependent on what you want to keep in the tank and how much waste it is producing.> I was thinking of taking acrylic and creating a maze if you will in a tank with walls tall enough to hold this DSB, and routing the water through it in this manner, not sure how viable this is the idea was to make the bed "longer". I may be wrong on the physics here. < Take a 5 gallon bucket and place a small valve in the bottom. Fill the bucket with sand you propose to use in the DSB. Run some aquarium water through it for a month or so until it is well seasoned. Read the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and oxygen levels before the water enters the bucket and again afterwards and compare the readings. If there are no nitrate readings then it has been converted to Nitrogen gas. If there are still readings then you need more gravel or finer gravel that has more surface area on it. If there is no oxygen then you need to aerate the water before it returns to the tank.> I was going to reverse the lighting so that the main tank was on daytime the refugium at night. any opinions?  should I even bother with the wet/dry part or omit it? is it easier to use the "plant scrubber" than an actual algal scrubber? I have thought about using one, maybe this is a better alternative. I assume the use of the algal would require turf algae which would populate the tank as well. there's no way I can see getting a diatom filter inline the return tube without losing a lot of gph. any thoughts on protein skimming in freshwater? < In salt water the proteins are less soluble in water and float the surface and so can easily be remove by skimming. In fresh water they are more soluble and don't accumulated on the surface so are much harder to remove by skimming.> went up to the local lake saw this in action, made me curious. freshwater is often ignored , for I suppose obvious reasons, but I'm interested in getting as close to a self contained system as possible. any thoughts on these freshwater eco substrates that remind me of live reef sand? < Adding Biospira from Marineland will speed up the process of seeding the bacteria in the substrate.> supposedly cultured and made special for planted aquariums. thoughts on black water conditions and their impact or lack thereof on filtration in freshwater ? < In acidic environments the ammonia  is actually a less toxic ammonium ion. This is why ammonia is so deadly to rift lake cichlids where the pH is often maintained near or over 8 and less toxic to black water fish keep at a pH close to 6. Acidic environments are less capable of supporting the bacteria that break down fish waste into nitrites and then nitrates.-Chuck> thanks in advance, Ian

Re: Freshwater Refugium? sorry to email again but I found this in your guy's faq's. it conflicts, I just know I'm treading areas not many have with fresh DSB and would like to understand? or is this old info? < Everything her is still accurate but every aquarium set up is a little different. Where do you see conflicts?-Chuck> follows Anaerobic Digestion w/ Deep Sand Beds (DSBs): The use of deeper and or finer grades of substrate are used to anaerobically ("without oxygen") convert nitrates back to gaseous nitrogen for removal from the system. There are definite benefits and dangers in these approaches versus the use of live plants, water changes, and chemical filtrants. to alleviate nitrate accumulation. The potential downsides of this anaerobiosis are production of noxious by-products like hydrogen sulfide gas (rotten egg smell), which can be deadly. By and large aquarists should be wary of "bubble" accumulation within their gravel, vacuuming such areas if they appear. Some anaerobic activity occurs in every system without the express use of such devices. By and large the units offered to aquarists are gimmicks that require constant attention, do little to improve net water quality, and way too often lead to poisoning of the system. Flow rates through digesters and carbon feeding are tricky matters. We'll have more to say about them under biological augmentation and filtration topics. They are mentioned here because of the involvement of substrates, and filter beds.

Freshwater Refugium? part 3 round 3 heehee... ahem. I know I'm asking a lot and posting long my apologies... as to your statement on the oxygenating of the water by using a venturi at the return pump in the refug. assume a medium to complete bioload. most of my tanks are well past cycled and have the just short of max load by using the surface area method of figuring complete bioload. Makes sense? < If it works and all the ammonia , nitrites and nitrates are under acceptable limits.> I found the max sizes of my fish to figure bioload max rather than juvenile size. okay. so I may be able to get some good results if I use a 6 inch DSB upstream in a sump. I could in theory have one half the sump be DSB one half planted with light. otherwise I wouldn't need light because the DSB doesn't need it? < The DSB does not require light.> is this true? would the plants and air intro'd at the pump bring back that oxygen? < It might. When the lights are turned off the plants reverse their daytime duties and start to consume oxygen and give off co2.During the day they consume co2 and give off oxygen.> The question is if there is enough oxygen in the tank to support fish just before the lights come on. What will be the water flow into the tank?> I hate canisters. I really do, it seems to me the media is overly immersed in water. it would seem to me this would cause it to be less efficient and not perform as well as a wet/dry. I really want to avoid the unnatural methods like UGFs BLECH!, HOB PF's, chemicals, carbon, etc. I think I may be able to obtain this filtration better utilizing heavy planting and a DSB and well good water maintenance. top off evap, and to replenish trace, although you could dose.... do you agree? or is this unmanned areas? < If the plants already consume all the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates then why do you still need a DSB? In marine tanks they don't have the abundance of live plants so things like algae scrubbers and DSBs have a potential to improve  water quality. If you had a fish only tank with a large wet dry system I think I would look at using water hyacinth in the sump with a strong daylight bulb to absorb the nitrogen waste. So the water would come through your wet/dry and accumulate in a sump or refugium. This water is well oxygenated and clean except for the nitrates. If would try and grow water hyacinth in the sump to remove the nitrates. This tank would need a bright daylight bulb but I think you will find that if the plants are healthy they will be taking their co2 out of the air and not out of the water so co2 injection is not necessary.-Chuck> so after extensive reading at least in the marine areas. this is my understanding. most filters cause situations that are never rectified and therefore cause and effect. especially in the over bio loads most have, and poor maintenance.??? a DSB should be fine sugar size sand but must be silicate sand for the freshwater? the bed should be 6" deep 4 at the least? a pw should be incorporated to blow water over the DSB to prevent detritus build up. some mechanical filtration is good to catch said detritus? would it be advisable to use an overflow given that unlike marine the organic material is not highly concentrated at the surface? perhaps an intake more like a PF? I want to plant the tank, but I just wondered if it was beneficial to have these plants after the DSB but before the main tank? or no difference? protein skimming wouldn't be worth the effort. what is your opinion of the product EcoComplete Planted aquarium substrate? only good for black water fish I assume. says it comes in liquid Amazon "buffered" black water solution. what about the use of Fluorite in the planted tank? also SeaChem flourish products as opposed to CO2? what are the dangers of CO2 and should this be applied anywhere in the system or directly to the tank. I should go read the faq's huh?! duh. is what I am trying to do unnecessary or what? you can tell me if I'm just crazy! one last set. I have seen in the FAQs conflicting views on substrate stirring creatures in the DSB and inverts. if I was to plant the refug assuming its worth it and does something beneficial like O2, is it advisable to have a snail, or shrimp like Amano's? what about Malaysian trumpet snails? I figure if I screen the pump inlet and the inlet to the sump/refug area I can keep them confined and I hear they seriously stir the substrate. a salt question, I thought cucumbers were toxic if killed and therefore should be avoided this is old info mind you. I may just be out of the loop. thanks for all the help I assure this isn't the last you'll hear from me, I will get into the forums in the future too. APPRECIATION!!!

Freshwater Refugium? part 4 I suppose your right... wouldn't I need a deep bed of about 4 or 5 inches of sand to keep a heavily planted tank anyway? right? < Depending on the type of plants 4 inches of iron rich substrate like fluorite would work well.> so then basically the would be perfect given the reverse cycle of the plants and the DSB cycle. and everyone is talking about peat on a few boards when I thought that was black water, and only for tetras and Amazonian fish. also there's the more acidic ph, and one source said use carbonit substrates to buffer one way, and acidic peat like subs to go more acidic. hmmmm... delicate balance... has anyone there written a up to date advanced freshwater book lately? < Once again all this depends on what fish you are trying to keep and what parameters you are trying to achieve. Peat moss has been used for years by aquarists because organics absorb calcium and give off a humic acid. So it softens water and acidifies it at the same time.> so not for Asian tropicals or African, it limits. I read the planted areas and much of what I've seen said in recent email questions can contradict or rather, sometimes change the info in those articles.. its hard to keep up with what's currently ok but was considered impossible etc. I think heavily plant the tank, use no filters, probably need a DSB depth to plant like I want to.... strong lighting, trace and fertilizers that are safe and in minimal use and I could about as close is possible it seems... < You still need a current to bring nutrients over the plants. If you want to use your plants as a filter then you better know how to keep them alive and select them carefully.-Chuck> hmmmm... well contrary to what I have seen in other FAQs that state that with maintenance the bed will not cause pockets of toxic gases, but the quoted faq below warns of exactly the opposite < Maintenance is the key word here. If the gravel is occasionally vacuumed the gas bubbles are removed  before they can disperse in the tank, while removing lots of the organic matter that may be clogging the pores in the substrate.-Chuck>

Wet/Dry filtration FW have been reading for a couple of days. and here are my questions. I want to start using a wet/dry for my freshwater tank. a DIY project. as of recent I have become infatuated with DSBs and their possible use in freshwater tanks in DE-nitrifying cycle, turning th nitrates to nitrogen. and the possible use of a refugium. I cant find ANYTHING on this anywhere, except here and very minutely. I did find the q&a where it was said a guy in PA was testing this out. is there any new info on this? < Haven't seen any recently but will check it out. The wet dry will greatly oxygenate the water so the water will need to go quit a ways before the bacteria delete it all. Then you have this un-oxygenated water you want to pump back into the tank. You might have quite a sand bed by the time you are through.> my idea was to build a wet/dry with a refugium after the wet/dry process the only way it would work I would think. to have a minimal bed in the tank and the DSB in the refugium, and heavily plant the main tank. I don't have specs I cans end yet its all in pencil on paper. does a DSB work the same in freshwater? < You won't need the DSB because the live plants will remove the nitrogen from the water.> does sandblasting sand cause ph problems with freshwater, or should I use something like Tahitian moon? < The only problem with sand blasting sand is that it is crushed quartz so the individual particle are angular and sharp so they have a tendency to lock together to prevent water flow. An ideal medium would be something that is well rounded and have good porosity.> I want seriously explore this and possibly change the freshwater scene forever, but I want to be sure I'm not treading already known territory of course if it works I'll still do it! anyway thank you < You will have to aerate the water as it comes out through the DSB or nothing will live in the refugium. For more info on filtration go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's library. I think you will find it interesting.-Chuck> Ian

STUCK AT THE PUMP Hi, I just got through setting up my aquarium and it looks great but I am STUCK AT THE PUMP.  I have the 30 to 80 gallons air pump by Topfin and it has 2 air outlets?  I have 1 outlet going to my 4 way GANG VALVE.  What do I do with the other air outlet leading from the air pump??? < You have a couple of options. When you say four way valve I will assume that you mean you have the airline from the pump going into a single stem on the side with no valve, and that you have four stems with adjustment valves coming out. You can buy a single brass Y and run the two outlets from the pump into the Y and then a single outlet going to the gang valve. The other option is to run the extra outlet from the pump to one of the valves on the gang valve and leave it wide open. That would leave you with two hoses coming in and three going out. It all depends on how many out lets you need for your tank.-Chuck> HELP!!!!! Indoor Pond filtration? 7/29/04 Hello, I really appreciate all the great advice you have given me!! I am now facing the next dilemma. I have purchased 2 Rubbermaid Agricultural 300 gallon stock tanks. I intend to use them side by side in my basement to keep freshwater Stingrays. <Neat> I am at a loss as to what to use for filters. I know these fish demand excellent water, and am prepared to do lots of water changes with RO/DI water. What type of filters should I run? I have heard these fish very sensitive to nitrates. Too bad they are freshwater instead of marine or I could just use live rock. What is the answer for nitrate reduction in freshwater besides water changes? <Good questions... the "real" or "best" answers to nitrate accumulation are likely "person specific" (actually worse, I'm susceptible to offering a very variations myself!). Low stocking density, careful feeding would get mentioned of course... the use of "in-sump" or in tank vascular plants, deep sand beds (same sort of approach as marine DSBs) would certainly work... water changes, perhaps occasional use of chemical filtrants should be cited... More volume ties in with the idea of low stocking density... Okay, I would tie in another Rubbermaid container if it'll fit, use it to grow lots of rapid-growing, floating (maybe some above like Ceratopteris spp. and submerged... Myriophyllum, Egeria...?) plants, a deep sand bed there (five or more inches) and not count on the same areas in the tubs with the rays (as they will stir these up continuously)... get, use large (as you can afford) canister filters (my favs are Eheim brand) and stock them with their media and basically forget them (they won't require much service)... get yet another Rubbermaid container to collect likely reverse osmosis water (or other pre-prepared water you intend to use for water changes) and be very diligent in making BIG (like 25% or more) weekly water changes... stock up on nitrate test kit reagents and check these once a week... And see what develops. Bob Fenner> PetSmart Says I Don't Need a Filter--What Baloney! (6/28/04)   Hi... I'm new to the aquarium scene. <Welcome to the hobby. Steve Allen with you tonight.> I bought a 10 gal tank a few weeks ago, came home and set it up and let it sit for a couple of days. <Needed to sit for a few weeks!> The guy at PetSmart told me that I didn't need a filter so my tank doesn't have one. <What?! This person has no business selling fish! The advice he gave you is utterly false and complete crap! You should report him to his supervisor and demand a refund for all fish that died as a result of his terrible advice. Virtually all aquariums need a filter. If I were his supervisor, I'd fire him instantly. Of course, it's probably the supervisor's fault in the first place for not adequately training the employee.>   I have 2 black mollies, a spotted Cory catfish, and 3 neon tetras. The temperature of the tank hovers around 82. <Too warm. Keep high 70s.> Recently my black mollies (who used to be the most active) have been acting very sluggish, staying in one place at the top of the tank for long periods of time, also sometimes they just sit at the bottom.  I have noticed long strings of clear feces, their stomachs seemed bloated along with their eyes.  The scales do not stick out like Dropsy, but on one of them the scales around one gill seem to be gone.  I over fed them during the first week of having them but realized my mistake after visiting your website.<This overfeeding contributed to the problem, but you got really bad, terrible, awful advice.> Yesterday one of the mollies died and I have a feeling the other one will follow... Please help!!!!   Thank you for a response <Your fish are almost certainly suffering from ammonia/nitrite poisoning. Get a test kit and test these right away. Buy a good power filter and use carbon an Zeolite. After you confirm the elevated ammonia, you will need to do several large water changes with water treated with chlorine/chloramine remover. You may even want to use Amquel plus for this and then you can use that to help control the ammonia. Your tank needs to cycle. Have you heard of cycling? Biofiltration? Get a good basic book about how to set up and operate a freshwater aquarium. With emergency action, you may be able to save a few fish. I'm not certain about the feces. The fish may have internal parasites as well. Be sure and go back to PetSmart and let the manager no how displeased you are with the fool who said you don't need a filter. Hope this helps.>

Using Clams as FW filters Crew @ wetweb. Is it possible that freshwater clams could take the place of my aquarium filter? << No, I don't like that idea.  I much prefer the idea that a nice filter can provide a better home for clams.  I understand the reasoning of using clams as the filters, but I don't like the idea.  To me, it is better to have a clean system which requires feeding, as opposed to a dirty system that doesn't require cleaning. Hope that makes sense. >> <<  Adam B.  >>

Looking for a new 120 gallon filter Mr. Fenner, <Jas> I currently have a 120gallon freshwater tank setup that used to be saltwater.  I have a wet dry that was being used on it when it was salt water, and I have a whisper filter that was only designed for a 40 gallon tank.  I have a sand and glass rock/marble bottom.  I have continuous problems with small particles in the water, and after a couple weeks my tank seems to start turning only slightly green. <Yes. Underfiltered, undercirculated>   I do a water change of about 10-30% monthly and the green clears up completely for at least a week or two.  I feed flake food twice a day.   I have been debating on a new filter to help clear the water.  I know the sand bottom does not collect all the particles a gravel bottom could, but I think my main problem is I need a better filter.  So far I have been debating a magnum 350 (although I know this is still slightly underpowered for my tank), an Eheim Classic Canister Filter 2217, or a supplemental Vortex Diatom XL Filter. <Definitely not the latter... a good unit for periodic use but not intended (designed, engineered) for continuous use>   I like the idea of having only one filter as opposed to adding additional filters, and I also want one that is quiet. What would you recommend as my best option? Thank you, Jason <The best takes into account your intended purpose and types, amounts of livestock, which you have not stated... Something more is definitely called for. Bob Fenner> RE: looking for a new 120 gallon filter Mr. Fenner, <Jason> Thank you so much for your quick response.   I tend to have more common fish, such as mollies (4-6), guppies (25), bottom feeders like clown loaches (4) and a red tail shark, iridescent sharks(2), and a few other fish.  I would consider it more of a community fish tank.   <Me too> In this type of tank would a magnum 350 even be close to sufficient, or do I need to consider some other option, or multiple magnums? <Two would be better than one>   It seems from what I can figure out, the canister filters would be the best for my tank(?).  Is there one you would recommend above the others for a tank this size?   <I am a big fan of Eheim's canister filters... more quiet, much more longer-lasting, better energy efficiency... and have two about ninety gallon tanks of African Cichlids running on one of these each... Do look around (etailers, catalog sales, deals at your local fish stores) for a possible low price offer for one larger size of these as an alternate.> Thank you again, Jason <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

FW filters Hi you have been great help in the past and I thank you for that. My question is I have a 125 gal tank with a 3 in. Oscar and I plan on getting a 2 or 3 in. common pleco. I have a emperor not sure what model it has 4 filter areas and to bio wheels also have a H.O.T. magnum. I was thinking of getting the Aqua Clear Pro 150 Wet/Dry filter it cost 260.00.I was wondering if this is worth the money and is it easy to maintain. I would probably not use the other filters any more.-------------Thanks Fred < For a tank that size even though it is lightly loaded I use a rule of thumb to have the water moving at least 3 times the total volume of the tank in one hour. So You need a filter or filters that move at least 375 gallons an hour. Better yet 5 times the total volume of the tank. I like a filter that is easy to service. That's why I like power filters that hang on the back. I have a love/hate relationship with canister filters. Sometimes you got to use them but they sure are a pain to service. Keep in mind that all filters do is collect waste from the tank. It is still in the system until you remove it. Wet drys are great if you don't use a co2 system in a planted tank. Oxygen is the limiting factor for the bacteria to break down fish waste to less toxic substances. You already have a wet/dry filter with the BioWheels on your emperor that is probably the 400 model. So it already pumps 400 gallons an hour and has the wet/dry factor already built it. Why spend the Extra money for something you don't need?-Chuck>

Need help to install filter Help!! I am trying to remember how to set up the filter on my daughter's fish tank and I can't find the instructions. She just won some gold fish at the fair (could be worse...my neighbor's kid brought home a hamster!). It's an "Eclipse" hood with the Bio Filter. Is an instruction booklet available on line somewhere?? We live in Spain so I can't go into the local store for help as this is not a brand that is carried here. Thanks! Beth Parker < It is actually quite easy to set up. You need to install the impeller with the magnet side up under the lower left hand side of the filter. A cap then goes over it. make sure that the shaft of the impellers fits into the cap so it will spin freely. Next slide the lift tube into the cap and then the filter screen over the tube. Go ahead and then turn it on and after a few minutes you should see water flowing up from the tank and down through a waterfall on the left hand side. The shaft of BioWheel fits just up inside the water fall into a couple of indentations. The water from the pump should make the BioWheel spin. Next you need to install the filter cartridge. The part with the tap goes in the far right corner. Place the left hand short side of the cartridge in the tray like opening and then lay it down along the tray. The tab should be bent up so it will fit into the slot. After a week or so you can take the cartridge out and rinse it out with a garden hose and then put it back it. The bacteria that break down the fish waste live on the wheel so don't rinse off the wheel very often. You can always check out the Marineland website at Marineland.com for more help from the technical assistance dept. for European models if they are different from those sold in the U.S.-Chuck>

Freshwater Protein Skimmer? Hello again! Well, my $20 tank has gotten to be very expensive! I now have yet another question for you to consider. To refresh your memory, I currently have a 35 gallon tank with a total of 17 African cichlids. (All Malawi Rift lake cichlids), 5 giant Danios, 2 Synodontis Eupterus, and 1 Pleco. Overcrowded to say the least! I maintain the temp at 76-78 degrees, and it is filtered with a Whisper PF for 20-40 gallon tanks, and now I have added an Emperor 280. I have also added an 4.5" cylindrical airstone pumped by a Penn Plax Silent Air for added aeration. My problem is that I have recently noticed an oily, slick film developing on the surface of the water. It doesn't seem to be harming the fish but it is very unappealing to look at. I have only lost one fish, (a giant danio) and it was because the Cichlids ganged up on him and had him for dinner! I change the water about every two weeks (20 - 25%) depending on the exact time frame and how much waste they make. Despite all my efforts, the slick film at the surface will reappear in a matter of a day or two. (Usually the very next day) I have spoken to a few people about the problem and have gotten mixed answers. I understand that Protein Skimmers are primarily for saltwater tanks, but I know some people that use them on their tanks for their cichlids. They have apparently experienced the same issues. However, the pet shop is insisting that I not put a protein skimmer on my tank because it will "diminish the naturally occurring trace minerals and elements in the tank". They have said that if I did put a protein skimmer on the tank, I will have to supplement the tank with the minerals. The pet shop actually refused to sell me the protein skimmer! They also mentioned that it will affect the biological balance of the tank by eliminating some of the bacteria. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Right now I don't know whether or not to be confused or disappointed! The bottom line is... how will a protein skimmer affect a freshwater tank set up for African Cichlids? Thanks in advance for your input! Thomas in Victoria, Texas < I have had the same problem with excess fats and oils accumulating at the top of the water. First I would try changing the fishes diet. Your fish are mainly vegetarians and many prepared foods like pellets are high in fish oil. The fish sometimes don't digest it all and the excess floats to the top. I would switch to spirulina flakes and only give them enough food that they will completely eat in a few minutes. A protein skimmer would somewhat work in a freshwater situation but it would not be worth the money and only provide a very limited benefit. It would not affect the biological filtration and no additional trace elements would be required. The bacteria living on the Marineland's bio wheel s will help too. -Chuck> 

Freshwater Protein Skimmer - II Chuck - Thanks for the straight forward answers. I certainly do appreciate it. I must say that I am happy to know that you guys are around. You have always been very quick to answer any questions, and have some great insight on this hobby. With the help of this website, it has been a good experience with my fish. Thanks, on behalf of myself and my family! Thomas in Victoria, Texas < Next year the American Cichlid Association will be holding its annual convention in Ft. Worth TX. If you really want to get into cichlids and see some neat stuff then you might want to check it out.-Chuck> 

Algal scrubbing freshwater filters I'm buying a algae based filter system." Algae scrubber", with light up tray, for a fifty gallon fresh water tank. It also comes with a pre filter module, single bio bag cartridge. They say it's all I need for filtration. < The way the system works is that the bio bag cartridge removes the large particulars and the algae absorbs the nitrogenous wastes.> I plan to have a few discus fish, with a schooling batch of cardinal tetras. I had them before, and had to use 60% RO water, and 40% of my well water, To keep my water soft enough for the discus, and tetras. I also used some peat in my bio wheel,[ which I no longer have.] I have nothing yet for my hobby. Just the above things on lay a way. I then plan to get my tank, and stand next. Plenty of fresh water plants, and very little gravel on the bottom, if any at all. I usually put my plants in small clay pots ,hidden behind fake logs, and fake rocks. Do you think this set up will be enough filtration for these very delicate fish? < You did not mention the flow rate of the pump. The water should turn over in the tank at least three times per hour and five times would be better. The live plants would compete for nutrients with your algae. This is fine for the fish but your plants may suffer so some nutrients would need to be checked to keep the plants looking healthy.> I've never used this type of filtration before. My other tank I had, I used a bio wheel, and a canister filter system, which seemed to do well. < I would recommend a Marineland Emperor 4oo for this situation. First it will pump approximately 400 gallons an hour when clean. The flow rate will slow down somewhat as the filter loads up. It hangs on the back and is easy to service. Sometimes canister filters can be a real pain to service. The cartridges are easy to rinse under a high pressure garden hose. The bacteria that live on the bio-wheels break down the ammonia to nitrites and then finally nitrates. The nitrates stay in the tank until they are removed by water changes or are absorbed by live plants. The algae scrubber will remove the nitrogenous wastes but this does not mean that water changes are not required. The plants and algae require nutrients other than nitrates to stay healthy. Intense light is required to keep the algae green, the light should remain bright, but bulbs lose their intensity over time and the scrubbers effect will suffer without warning. How much are replacement bulbs? I don't know why you liked this particular system over another. I like the idea and it has been used many times over the years.  With out knowing which specific filter you are looking at I can only deal in generalities.-Chuck> Please help me on this, because this system I'm buying is very expensive. Thanks for you help,                                                                         Deborah Mitchell

Re: FW Algae scrubber filter Hello, again Chuck!    HOST50   HOST AS-50 gal -   BL-H50    Spec.Lamps(2) -    H-Pre   HOST PreMod      These are the algae scrubber, and prefilter, and lamps. Here's their site:       www.EZTank.com,  I have a feeling your going to get more questions about these filtering systems. I hope you have time to go look threw this site, and look at their equipment. They are saying you will need no other filtering system, nor much maintenance on the tank. One of the reasons I don't put gravel in my discus tanks is to be able to keep the bottom of the tank vacuumed, and do 20% water changes every other week, along with regular maintenance on the filters. But that was when I had the other filtering systems. There is so much information on this site that you might want to check it out, and let me know what you think. I'm starting to worry, that this may be a bad move on my part. This is so new, not many people know about these systems. I value your opinion, and need to know if I need to get my lay away money back, and go for what worked well for me in the past. Thanks a bunch! Deborah Mitchell > < WOW, what a website. First of all let me tell you that I agree for the most part with their assessments about the aquarium industry and about filtration. The products they offer appear to be top of the line and very expensive too. They seem to be as interested in the financing as they are in the filtration and I can see why. But lets back up here and look at what you want to do. Fish generate waste in the form of ammonia that is toxic to fish. There are bacterial that like on the surface of objects like sand, rocks and plants that break the deadly ammonia down into first nitrites which are less toxic than ammonia. Eventually these nitrites are broken down into a further less toxic nitrate. Nitrates are bad for fish in concentrations above 25 ppm depending on the fish. Now to get rid of these nitrates  there are number of things we can do. The first is we can dilute them by doing a water change. If the fish don't die directly from the nitrate poisoning they are usually stressed enough to succumb to a disease first. This is why we always are recommending water changes. It doesn't eliminate them, just reduces them to a tolerable limit for the fish. Next is a device that is a long tube in which a slow flow of water is run. Inside this tube the bacteria use up all the oxygen and then anaerobic bacteria begin to grow towards the back half of the tube. Anaerobic bacteria can convert nitrates to nitrogen gas. These are an disaster waiting to happen. It is difficult to get the flow rates set just perfect and all other strange things seem to happen with these units. These are expensive and unreliable. The third way is to use plants in the aquarium system. Plants use ammonia , nitrite and nitrate. Now in your first letter you said you were going to use "plenty of plants", I assume they will be alive and not plastic. These plants will compete with the algae living in the filter. If you use this system along with your live plants then I feel really confident that you would not have a problem with nitrates ever! These make more sense in a marine setup where there are really few aquatic saltwater plants available. In a fresh water situation there are plenty of plants. You try an experiment. Set the tank up using your bio wheel system and lots of plants. I would still place at least a half inch of sand on the bottom for additional good bacteria habitat. It reduces the glare and the fish will look better. It masks the waste on the bottom until it can be vacuumed up. It a bare tank are you going to vacuum the bottom all the time? Anyway, once the tank is set up then start checking the levels of the wastes we have discussed. If the plants in the aquarium are already absorbing the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates then why do you need a algae scrubber filter? You save money in the initial setup and you will save money on electricity for two additional lamps. If you are really sold on the system then all means get it I really don't see a need for it at this time based on what you want to do with this tank. If you do decide to get it then please get back to me on how you like it. -Chuck>

Of Java Ferns and panty hose!!   Hey guys!! Terrific site....with tonnes of info....I searched for the info. I require but have not come across any specific information on my problems....I will greatly appreciate any info you have, and I will try and keep my question brief as possible....   1) Is panty hose entirely safe for the aquarium?? < Panty hose made from nylon is safe as longs as all the detergents have been removed.> I have read in many places to use this for such things as putting crushed coral in for calcium carbonate addition to the tank, and many other uses...I am currently using it to cover the intake tubes on my power filters. so to avoid sucking up any guppy babies....is this safe??  No toxins from the elastic in panty hose??   I rinsed it first to remove any detergents etc...but still one wonders?? < I wonder. I will assume that the area you are from that the water is fairly soft. I would get a hardness kit and check it to see if you really need to do this. You could always put the crushed coral in the filters too.>   2) My tank is growing with Java Fern. and it is growing well....except for the black leaves. and some holes  (prob. the snails...not so bothersome). but the black spots!! And leaves going black. not all of them mind you. but a few. is this just old growth, or is the plant lacking something?? < You did not mention anything about the lighting. Java fern does not like bright light and soft water. Check the water and put the fern in a dimly lighted area of the tank.>   I do have 2 power filters (both fo a 15 gallon tank)...the tank is 15 gallons, plus two airstones...am I overdoing it??  Is that possible??   Am I doing more harm than good??  Removing CO2, or helping the fish with O2 ??  The decisions!!! < In hard water the co2 combines with the calcium in the water. This leaves little co2 for plants. With the airstones it is almost a sure bet that there is no co2 in the tank at all. You can check this with a co2 test kit.> Plus my snails are not the best either...one kind...conical shell is doing fine...the other live -bearing Malaysian seems to be having their shells erode away...they go white and then almost see through....and sometimes the snails seem almost dead...sticking out of their shells a bit...but then they move and crawl away a few hours later.... < I suspect that you have little buffering in your water and the soft water is dissolving the shells of your snails. The plants will also take up calcium as well as the bacteria in the filters.>   Tank info....15 gallons, 2 power filters plus two airstones, 1 inch gravel, lots of Java fern, lots of snails, 7 guppies (2 are male), 1 Betta, 1 Pleco, 2 spotted Corys....that's it....have treated with Melafix now and then for fin tears in Betta and some fin problems in Guppies...(.5 are new additions to tank).....they are doing fine. the fish that is....mostly....also tests....pH...7.6, ammonia 0.0, Nitrate 5 mg/L, Nitrite .1 mg/L, and Iron 0.0.  These are all the test kits I currently have.....Tank temp.. around 78 degrees F.  Water changes 15% every week. with vacuumed.   So, any ideas for improving the condition of my plants or snails??   Without hurting my fish?? I'm scared of taking the airstones away and having things go bad. and to loose it all!!  Please. I'm confused........I've been into aquariums for 15 years plus. on and off....and am constantly learning....I have lots of books and encyclopedias on the hobby and the fish.....but I find you can never know it all!!!  That is half the fun of this hobby. the learning!!  I love to learn knew things about this stuff...I love the natural systems....(no burping clams thank you!!)...and hate the panty hose!!!  But what else to do??? < I would like to recommend a book to you that I you will find extremely helpful. It is called the Baensch Atlas #1. You have been at this for a number of years so I think it will help you understand water chemistry a little better and let you read your plants to decide how to manage it. I would service the filters on week and gravel vac on the other week. This way you will not remove all of the bacteria at once.-Chuck>     Willing to learn and treading water here in Cape Breton  (Nova Scotia Canada)!!!  Thanks in advance for any advice!!

Eheim 2235 Ecco Canister filter  3/24/04 <Hi Pufferpunk here.  Sorry it's taken me so long to respond.  Having some computer problems.> Hello! I hate to bother you guys with a question, but my computer's down and I'm borrowing someone else's... and a brief read-through of the Canister Filter FAQs didn't quite answer my questions. So, here goes.        We just bought an Eheim 2235 Ecco filter that came "complete with media." The media it came with was one carbon filter pad, one fine mesh pad and 4 coarse mesh pads. This filter is going to be used on a 72 gal. goldfish tank, and we're likely to have it stocked with no more than 5 large (5 in. or >) fish.  So my question is this- I want to buy other media to put in these baskets, yes?  How would you recommend setting up the filter from bottom to top? <I like Bioblox, or something comparable, with lots of surface area for nitrifying bacteria to grow.  I would also suggest adding an Aquaclear 500 (my preferred hang-on-back filter) for mechanical & extra biological filtration.  I like to stack the AQ with the sponge that comes with it (bottom), 1" of plain old filter floss  (middle, "polishes" the water crystal clear) & bag of Bioblox over the floss (top).  Although not familiar with that particular Eheim model, I use Eheims on all my tanks >50g.  I have 2213 & 2217s & they both came with circular clay pieces & gravel type  pieces for surface area, along with a couple of pads & some mesh. You could actually put whatever you wanted in there.  I put each different type of media in a stocking (mine came w/o baskets) so I can just pull out & rinse when necessary.  Sponges & mesh go between them & I top it off w/1" of filter floss.>   Also, I don't really understand how you clean the media. How do you maintain the media to get the best filtration possible? <I rinse my AQ media every week (except for the Bioblox--maybe 1x/month) & take apart the Eheim, whenever it starts to get clogged.  Goldfish are very high waste producing, messy fish & require extra filtration & huge water changes.  I've been told by long time GF keepers that 90% weekly water changes isn't considered too aggressive, to remove all the ammonia & waste produced by them.>          This is for a restaurant, so I want to understand what I'm doing as clearly as possible! <Yeah, I would guess dead/diseased fish floating in a restaurant display tank, might not be very appetizing!  I also suggest, if you want to fully stock the tank, get some Bio-Spira (instant cycles your tank--the ONLY source of live nitrifying bacteria) & pour it in right before adding your fish.>   Thanks so much for your time! Sincerely, Sarah Orris PS At least I learned why the filter was blowing out fine bubbles for the first 24 hours by reading your FAQs! <Always good to look 1st  ~PP>

Aeration of Fresh Water Tanks This is a first for me.  I've posed lots of questions regarding marine systems on WWM as they are my first love.  You folks have been great in providing advice and I now have a very healthy 75 Gallon SPS and Clam tank. <Very nice, I'm glad we can be of assistance!> However, now, after many "salty years", I've decided to set up a fresh water tank in my office and I am finding it hard to remember all that I knew before marine! The tank is a smallish, 12 gallon Via Aqua glass tank with 2X 18W PC's.  I have had it running for a week now with nothing but the water and a few plants (Swords & Banana) as it cycles.  I'm nearing the end of the cycle and will be adding fish some time next week.  My plan is to keep a Cory cat (or two), and a school of tetras.  My questions are as follows: Are the 2X 18W PCs enough or too much to sustain banana and Amazon Swords? <No, my previous secretary had lights just like that on her tank and the plants didn't seem to mind the intensity.  They didn't grow as tall as they normally would, but they seems healthy.> Do I really need an air stone and pump to oxygenate water or will my mini cascade filter be sufficient for surface chop and therefore gas exchange? <adding an airstone would be a good idea, though it's not necessarily needed.  Adding a stone and a pump quickly increases the gas levels diffused in the water.  You can set the tank up and see how it goes, you can always add it later if you see that it's needed.> I am spoiled by my reef tank.  I no longer like the looks of bubble wands and other unnatural features in my display tanks.  I'd love to go without in this system. <I get that same feeling as well.  There are products now marketed to hiding unnatural features.  Covers for airline tubing, plant walls that block the bubbles from view.  Next time you go to a large pet store look around you will be amazed what they have nowadays> I also like the idea of live plants for nitrate uptake.  To me, it seems like the Live Rock of the freshwater system. <Live plants are a great addition to the tank. They handle lots of extra nutrients in the water.  There are many websites and forums dedicated to the planted freshwater tanks.  Look around online and you are sure to find one that suits you.  You can add base rock to your tank, though it won't have lots of small copepods and other interesting critters as in the SW world.  It will offer a great area for beneficial bacteria to grow.> Have a wonderful day.  Thank you in advance for your advice.  Hope to see you at MACNA in Boston in September! David <Hope to see you there as well! -Magnus>

Daughter housing show stock-wants wet/dry My daughter wants the ultimate filtration method for her two 30 gallon custom tanks that she has assembled next week. She wants them to share the system. She is really wants to purchase wet/dry as her method. She is also planning a blackwater "pond" for the Florida room. She wants perfect (as possible outside nature) water parameter kept without daily maintaining. The fish are anabantids, not picky.  Mostly Bettas in special divided tanks with a tube that moves the water current through. She is going to plant it heavily and doesn't plan to have more than a dozen fish sharing this environment  2 divided males a main area of 3-5 compatible females, cleaners( she wants SAE for cleaners), ghost shrimp and maybe a few cardinal tetras for flash and activity. She is not concerned with over filtration since she may convert this set  up to marine later. <Ah, a useful "clue"> She is working with more inbred and therefore delicate strains. The plants she has in the 20 gallon. The rest she has 2/10 gallons all over my house. Auuugh! Lucky dad is out of the states! And with fish costing 60-150 each...I'd leave nothing to chance either. Her theory is the unnatural delicacy  and the fact that more bettas are being posted with ich, cotton mouth and parasites; is not simply inbreeding but the small space that they develop in with the constant stress of being right next to a competitor with no where to hide if you are the loser.>shrug< Maybe> My granddad's Betta splendens in the 70s were near bullet proof and he had a good dozen males in a planted 5 ft long tank that only postured and squabbled like Danios. They usually lived a good 5 years before being retired to his 3000 gal river pond in his back yard. <Wow, anything over three years is very good for a Betta lifespan> Though most think she is swatting a fly with a Buick and that bettas are not "worth" the expense, she considers them her "wards". If she wants her 80 dollar fish to live happy..... who am I to say "go cheap" ? Anyway.... She wants to move the 60 gallons in a steady flow without being a rip tide, what size unit or brand model would suit her demand? <Something of a total gallonage of twenty or more... to function for the marine use later... and a diverting mechanism for the pump at this point> We have a predator tank and she would rather send her culls there than the "ignoble fate of the megastore fish" (^.^ sheesz,  I just had Barbie as a kid and helped clean tanks..eeew!).  The tanks are planned currently as 18 x 34 x 12. Custom builds. She has stock credit on hold till they are cycled for a minimum of 4 weeks. She is paranoid. Heh! But it is her nickel and they are her babies and I applaud responsible care. I just am trying to help her decide to get more bang for her buck, rather than get the first "perfect set-up advertised". I can get her to hold off till this weekend and then she will buy the system she decided (how I found your site. the search for info on a Pro Clear pro75 vs. the in tank Fluval BioLife55).  She wants to keep it under a 150 if possible and two units from companies that are known have been found at that price.   <Perhaps with a bit of shopping, bargaining> All your wet/dry info always has marine tanks involved and a suggestion to change to live rock; not good for freshwater I am afraid Thanks! JR King...mother to the future kingpin of the International Betta Society and who got some fish for Christmas. and has a good 100 Gourami fry survivors...eeek!) <I would post your query re brands, makes, models on our chatforum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ for more up-to-date info. here. Bob Fenner>

Re: Daughter housing show stock-wants wet/dry Thank you guys! For your brief and helpful comments! And stellar response time! It helped quite a bit!  She has decided to keep each one separate. She adjusted the dimensions a few inches for in-tank wet/dry. She bought 2 bio life 35's NIB for 70 bucks. The tank maker has made a " flow-break" to control current from the BioLife that runs through the dividers in a strategically perforated clear tube. and Ack! I have a headache! <You're "talking the talk"!> She decided that when she gets her tangs late next year she will just start from scratch and get a wet dry that sanitizes the water?   Geez, when I think of the primitive fishkeeping in the 60s and 70s! I wonder that they stayed alive! Come a looong way fishy!  Gratefully, JR King (future Mom of a fish keeper extraordinaire'') <Indeed. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Freshwater canister I was wondering if it was a sound idea to build your own freshwater sediment canister filter. <I have known quite a bit of Do-it-yourself people that have made some weird filters and have been quite happy with their creations.> Just get  a 10 gallon bucket with a lid, cut a hole in the bottom so it can drain into the sump, put larger rocks on the bottom 3in, then 4in of fine river gravel, then 1 or 2 feet of sand then lose gravel at the top, put something at the top so the water spreads out and doesn't just run down the center, put the lid on and cut a hole in it, and run the hose from the pump into it. <Sounds like you already have a plan there McGuyver!  I don't see why it shouldn't work, just make sure you don't have any way of the small grains being picked up and possibly passed to your pump's intake.> It could drain into a mud/algae refugium or whatever you wanted and wouldn't you get good NNR from the water running through the bacteria in the sediment layers? <Yeah, you sound as if you are simply making a first stage closed refugium in that bucket of your. adding a refugium would add a healthy filter to your tank.> Thanks <Thanks for sharing. -Magnus>

Thank you for your great site and willingness to help out, it is wonderful. (freshwater refugiums) <We thank you for visiting our little corner of the world wide web.> For those of us who care a great deal about the stewardship of the aquatic life in our care being able to communicate with experts is a real blessing. <Having an area like this is not only helping those who care for the aquatic life, I'm sure the aquatic life we help is much happier about it as well.> There is a lot of information on the use of refugium technology in marine tanks, but I have found It difficult to get detailed information on their use in freshwater planted aquariums. <That is a concern that thankfully is finally being realized in the freshwater community.  Many experts are starting to take the ideas and technology that works so well to make marine tanks beautiful and changing it to work just as well on freshwater tanks.> I suppose you could make certain comparisons such as the plants in your tank equaling live rock etc., but I have found it difficult to ascertain if a live DSB or mud base is good in a planted aquarium and what is the best way of creating one. <The sad thing is that only since the internet has really taken off in the past 5-10 years has these issues been asked.  And there isn't that many definitive answers.  Years back I had thought of the exact same thing and being the scientific mind that I was attempted to set up a freshwater tank that mimicked my marine tanks. (seeing if I could set a tank up first, then move onto a refugium sort of idea.  A sand or mud based substrate worked best in a planted aquarium (rather than any sort of gravel) It offered a better medium for the plant roots and for microfauna to build up some colonies.  I created mine by actually hiking into the middle of my parents woods to the stream they owned and scooped a bucket full of the sand/mud from the riverbed.  I made sure that the area wasn't near any roads or field run offs so there shouldn't be that many chemicals in there.  I then brought it home to add it to a tank I had set up with a bag of "Southdown Children's play sand" as substrate. I added the contents of the bucket to the tank (after looking through it for pieces of glass and things I wouldn't want in my tank).  I thought that I could see if some things would colonize the remainder of the sandbed just like if you were to seed a reef tank sand bed.  I found that it did work.  Lots of little bugs were in the river bed that quickly started working away on the sand.  The down side... many of the bugs found on land in freshwater are the larval stage of some sort of flying insect... (keep a lid on your tank!)> It also stands to reason that a refugium DSB in a freshwater tank could hold the same NNR benefits as a marine one. Is this true? <That was my theory as well, and though I didn't do any scientific testing, the sand layer did take on the colors I see in deep sand beds.  Were the lack of oxygen seemed to allow the beneficial bacteria to grow.> One of my biggest questions regards algae or vegetable refugiums. Obviously the main take itself is a sort of vegetable refugium. I was wondering if you could use a mud/algae refugium in the sump to help control the growth of algae in the main tank, by soaking up the excess nutrients, how precarious would the balance be, between feeding the plants and having the algae rob them of to many nutrients? <I think for the first 4-5 months the balance would be quite hard, but as the tank and the refugium matured it should be less.  You would most likely find a balance through trial and error.  You can also add other plants in there such as Egeria densa/Anacharis, Ceratophyllum/Coontail-Hornwort, one of the Myriophyllums/Parrot's Feather-Milfoil. You can also add some critters to your refugium to help keep it clean.  There are a few filter feeding animals, such as Singapore shrimp, freshwater clams, even zebra mussels that would love to be in a nutrient rich system like that.  Freshwater clams worked great, I had them in my tank, and they seemed to do just fine.> I am planning on having a good fish population in the tank. How well dose protein skimming work in a freshwater tank? <It doesn't.  Skimmers need the salt in the water to allow the tiny bubbles to form, which carry the excess waste to the surface to be skimmed out.  Many high salinity brackish tanks use them... but once in freshwater they are useless.> Will larvae and worms etc. grow in the mud and help feed the tank like in a marine aquarium and what is the best way to seed you tank for these critters without getting to many unwanted ones. <I had many worms and larvae in the tank, but like I had stated earlier, many of them were to become adult versions of pests I normally swatted.  I didn't figure a way of seeding without getting unwanted pests.  I added small fish like guppies to prey on some of the larvae.> Do you have a recommendation on substrate? <I liked the heavier grained sand, (larger than fine sand) much like what you find in riverbeds.> My tank is 120 gallon 48X24X24 what kind of lighting would be good if it is heavily planted. <I suggest you check out http://www.plantedtank.net/ to learn more about lighting.  They seem to know a good deal about it.  Also I suggest you look at our own section of info here on WetWebMedia.   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html  I hope that helps.> Finally, I know water clarity is a big issue with plated tanks, would you recommend ozone. <I have never used it, so I don't want to say either way.> If you have a favorite up to date book please recommend it, so many on the market are outdated. <Sadly many of the books are outdated.  So, I rely on online sources for my info. Though one book I do enjoy (mainly for the pictures) is  Takashi Amano's planted tank books.  They are something to drool over!  I suggest you look at one of his books, they can give you ideas on what to do for a large planted tank.> Thank you Greg Kirton <good luck. -Magnus>

New Tank Syndrome - Is It Fresh?  Is It Salt?  It Doesn't Matter! >I have a question, concerning my 29 gallon aquarium, and my Penguin Bio-wheel filtering system. >>Alright. >I recently started having problems with my aquarium getting cloudy, and not being able to clear it up. I've changed 50% of the water, and the filtering system has been well rinsed, and the filter changed. It still wont clear up.   >>Using these methods it NEVER will.  You are ensuring that you remove the very bacteria you're trying to culture.  These are benthic nitrifying bacteria (they convert ammonia from the fish's wastes into other, less noxious compounds).  When you do water changes and clean the filter, you're removing them and giving free floating bacteria the upper hand.  You have to stop, leave the tank alone. >The bio wheel isn't spinning.  Will that make a difference in filtration? >>Bad, it sure will.  Contact the shop you bought it from, it may be a defective unit.   >Should I replace the wheel? >>No, if this is a relatively new unit (under 3 months old) and you've been struggling with this in operation, they should be willing to replace it free of charge.  If not, contact Penguin and ask them to replace it.  In the meantime, do try to leave the tank be for a month.  It will clear up (assuming you're not overfeeding or the like) once the nitrifying bacteria finally get established.  Marina

Aquarium i have a few questions- i acquired a 125 gallon aquarium, which i love and if i can resolve some problems will keep. originally it was a saltwater tank which i didn't want-soo we took it apart and cleaned it so on-it had a maxi reef filter can i use that for a freshwater tank? if so -i have no idea what to keep in it as far as sponges media (except for the bio-balls) if not what do i use- the tank has a pretty extensive unit underneath it. they didn't leave me anything on the filter as far as maintenance goes and i love the tank and clean it every week - it looks nice and i test the water everything is good but there is a god awful smell and i wonder if its cause the filter isn't  good .<I would just find a sponge that fits in the filter. try finding the model number of your filtration system and presenting it to your LFS and ask them if you can order one. this might take care of the smell> I dunno? i hate to get rid of it but if i can't figure out what to do it will have to go my living room reeks any help would be wonderful I'm .desperate <I have never heard of a filter or aquarium. smelling that badly. especially when the individual says he cleans it every week. weird :/ (I don't know what to tell you about the smell) --Good luck, IanB>

Big fish, big tank, big lack of information Can you please help me out, and tell me what filter, etc. I need to set my 300 gallon tank? (Fresh water)  There will only be one fish living in the tank, but it's 24" long, <Sherry, I'd love to help you out with this, but I need a bit more information first.  First and foremost, what kind of fish is it?> and eats "everything" from people food, to dry dog food, and minnows.   <Oh my - really, none of those are good food choices for a fish.  Again, let me know what kind of fish it is, and I'll give you some ideas on foods that'll be healthier (and yummier) for your really big fellah (or fellah-ette?).> I really want to get this tank set up, but don't want to end up with a "swamp" in my home!   <Aw, now where's the fun in THAT?  ;)  Okay, so you don't want three hundred gallons of water on your living room floor, I think that's understandable!  Get back to us with a bit more info (what kind of fish, anything specific you want to do with this setup, etc.) and we'll be glad to point you in the right direction(s).> Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks a lot,  Sherry and Rascal   <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Freshwater Turnover Rate Hope all is well <So far so good, come on 5 O'clock> quick question what kind of turn over rate for a freshwater aquarium 75gal 20 gal sump. (free tank)?  I  will be keeping native fish. perch and things of that nature. <I think perch will outgrow this system in no time, I would shoot for a turn over rate around 5-10x per hour.  I would also focus on smaller fish or a larger system.  check out fishbase.org for information relating to the fish you are planning before you acquire them, especially the maximum size portion.  Best Regards, Gage> Thank you for all the time spent on us newbies.      Raymond

Eheim for a 75 gallon tank  Hiya, sorry to bother you.  <No bother at all! That's what we're here for.>  I have kept tropical fish for a few years now. A small community tank 4ft long. It has been very successful. But only used 2 powerful powerheads as under gravel filtration. I have recently bought a second hand tank for my main room. Its a 75 gal tank, not as big as hoped but fits in a corner nicely, but is about 2 foot deep. My problem is filtration! I have read lots on your web page and taken friends advice. I don't want to be drilling the tank or anything. So have decided to go for an external canister sort of filter. From reviews etc., have decided Eheim is probably best.  <Yes, definitely.>  The thing is not sure of wet/dry or not?  <That's going to be pretty much personal preference, and for what application you wish to use it. If you go with the wet/dry, the wet/dry feature can be disabled (if I understand correctly), so you could have the best of both worlds, so to speak. On a heavily planted tank, I do not think I would use the wet/dry option, since it creates more turbulence as the wet/dry portion fills and empties.>  And to what size is sensible! not adequate. I'm probably gonna be keeping angel fish and maybe A discus. Could you suggest an Eheim model that would serve me well?  <Take a look at models 2026, 2226, and 2227; one of these would likely suit you best.>  Would more aeration be needed? Powerheads?  <Again, this depends upon application. Heavily planted tank - no need for aeration (it'd be a drawback). Heavily stocked fish tank, yeah, might be a good idea to add a couple of powerheads. Figure out what kind of tank you want, and that will determine what you need.>  The surface area is about 97cm * 53cm. Thanks for your time, Ian.  <Anytime. Wishing you well, -Sabrina> 

What's that smell??? (10/22/03) <Hi! Ananda here this afternoon...> I have had a 3' aquarium for 7 years and had encountered few problems . I have recently added some new fish after a long time with only a few fish in the tank. I now have a major smell problem with the tank. I have cleaned it out more often and I am wondering if I have cleaned it out too much and removed too much dirt for the under gravel filter to work? Please help if you can my living room smells like the bottom of a pond!   <It's likely there's something stuck under the undergravel filter plate, rotting away, and producing hydrogen sulfide. You may need to tear the whole tank down to clean under there and find the culprit. To prevent another occurrence of something like this, I think the new fish deserve a new filter. There are a number of easier-to-maintain filters available now. For a 3' tank, without knowing how many or what kinds of fish you have, I would suggest looking into the Penguin 330 or one of the Emperor filters (click the Drs. Foster & Smith icon at the top of the Daily FAQs page and wander over to their filtration section).> Karen. <Hope this helps. --Ananda>

RE: Cloudy tank with green water (10/18/03) HI,  it's me again with the green water...   <Hi! Ananda back again...> I checked the levels in my tank today.. pH was 6.6, no ammonia or nitrates .  I do not have a way to check for phosphates as of yet. <Definitely something to get soon...> I have a power filter 30 (up to 150 gallons per hour) with 3 way filtration (a mesh strain and carbon chips...I always keep the same frame in the filter. I only change out the mesh and carbon).   <The frame doesn't do much for bio-filtration... the carbon itself probably contributes more to the bio-filtration than the frame does. Saying the plastic frame helps with the bio-filtration is, IMO, a bunch of hooey. However, there should be a "retrofit" available to add some real bio-filtration: it's a sponge, shaped to fit between the cartridge and the outflow. I would definitely get one of those for the filter.> My tank is a 20 gallon.  I have 9 fish (4 gold barbs, 2 ghost glass catfish, and 3 black tetras) which I feed a little every other day.   Do you think the filtration is OK? <I think you need a lot more bio-filtration than what you have. If you can swing it financially, you might also consider an additional filter, either one with a bio-wheel, or a sponge filter and air pump.> Should I continue to use the algae kill treatment?   <I would quit using it.> Do you still recommend checking for phosphates?   <Definitely.> Thanks again. you've been a big help! <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Cloudy water (10/11/03) Hi how are you ?   <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I'm having a problem with cloudy water hope you can help. About 4 months back I cleaned out the filter media with  TAP WATER, <Oops. Not a good idea, as I'm sure you've realized -- the chlorine will kill your nitrifying bacteria.> Eheim 2028 pro series. <That's the big boy of the bunch... how big is your tank?> Ever since then I've had a cloudy tank. It's a community tank, food is flake, shrimp pellets  & blood worms. If you have some advice please let me know. <What are your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings? A cloudy tank is a sign of inadequate biological filtration. My bet is that the filter has never had a chance to "catch up" with the fish waste. I would suggest a water change first, perhaps 30-40%. Do try putting your fish on a short fast -- a couple of days will not hurt them -- so that they do not contribute as much ammonia to the water as usual. When you start feeding them again, feed them perhaps half to two-thirds as much as you have been feeding them. I would continue weekly water changes of at least 15%. Hopefully, the water will clear up. If not, you might consider adding more filtration on at least a temporary basis. For that, I'd suggest a bio-wheel type filter. After the bio-wheel is colonized (it'll probably turn a bit darker), you can see if your Eheim can handle the load. If you later take the bio-wheel off of the system, you can keep it ready--to-use by storing it in a hidden corner of the tank.> Thanks much,  Frank <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Rinsing filter pads (10-7-03) Hi,<Howdy, Cody here today.> Hope all is going well there. <Other than my internet service being a pain in the but.  Everythings great!> I have a question.  I always rinse my filter pads (ones used for mechanical filtration) with tap water to clean them out every week.  I know not to do this with those filters used for biological filtration.  I read somewhere that the chlorine in the tap water combined with the dissolved organics in the pad can cause compounds that can harm the fish.  Is this true?  <Well chlorine is very harmful to any aquatic life, so I would use RO water just to be safe since if you get any accumulation of chlorine you could be in trouble.> thanks, James

Magnum 350 10/5/03 I recently acquired a used Magnum 350 canister filter. How do I set it up? Thanks, Cherie <hmmm... I'm not sure I/we can best serve you by a less than clear and long explanation of this product via e-mail. Let me ask you to help yourself (better) by archiving the manufacturers website... and seeking a local aquarium society (excellent source of such information and advice to see and work hands-on). You might also try out www.wetwebmedia.com forum for fellow users that can share insight. Best regards, Anthony> Magnum 350 Manual 10/5/03 For the person who bought the used Magnum 350, the owner's manual can be downloaded from this link: http://www.marineland.com/products/manuals/magnum_manual.pdf  Steve Allen <outstanding follow-up, Steve. Thanks kindly :) Anthony>

Anchoring corner filters hi I've just set up my first freshwater aquarium   I have a corner filter  filled with charcoal and filter wool but it keeps floating to the top  how do I stop it from floating ,       thanks Sam <Best to add something to the bottom (inside) the filter for ballast. Some glass marbles, a small rock or two, some aquarium gravel. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater refugium Hey Bob, I just finished setting up a tank for my fat boy goldfish to house them for the winter. I am looking into making a section of my sump a refugium of sorts, Do you have any suggested plants? I was thinking duckweed, water sprite, or maybe water lettuce if I can get my hands on some, I understand it is illegal now. I do not need fish and game knocking down my door. <Oh yes! Some "cool water" "bunch" plants... Egeria densa/Anacharis, Ceratophyllum/Coontail-Hornwort, one of the Myriophyllums/Parrot's Feather-Milfoil... Bob> Thanks, Gage

Undergravel filtration, and funky water quality Dear fish saviors, <Good afternoon, Kaz - Sabrina here with you this lovely (rainy) lunch hour> I've had a long and generally successful fishkeeping career but this year 2 of my goldfish died (at ages 19 and 17 years old). <Oh my.  What a loss.  I'm so sorry to hear that.> Only one sad survivor was left. I was away, the water went 'off' and they died :( Anyway, I worked hard to stabilize the tank with the Lone Black Moor (who had some scars, general poor condition, floating probs etc). He came good and after a few months I got LBM some friends - a small comet and a small fantail. My problems came back. The new guys were hungry all the time and I am guilty of giving in to their shameless begging. <Just say 'no'! to fish obesity ;) > Also I changed fish food on advice of LFS (sinking pellets, 34% protein) and am not sure if this has contributed to the instability. <And what were you feeding with before?  Do your guys get any vegetable matter?> LBM seemed happier and with more energy but developed two little white spotty bits on his head. These then seem to have gone away (I treated with fungal cure) but he has a new one further back on his head. <Can you describe this in a bit further detail? Do the spots stick out? Or are they pits?  Are they fuzzy looking?  Waxy looking?  Look like cauliflower?  How big are they?> After uncontrollable Ph problems I checked with LFS and changed my filtration system (from charcoal and wool type filter to undergravel filtration).   <Filtration isn't very directly related to pH swings (except as far as organic materials building up), I can't imagine why they told you to switch....> But my question is (I know its very naive but..) how to I keep it clean? I have used the gravel siphon cleaner thingee and have done a 25% water change since I got the UGF two weeks ago but my plants are disintegrating. <Argh.  UGF and live plants do *not* play well together, and there's not much of a way to make 'em work out.  Your only plant species is elodea, correct?  Perhaps try letting it float only, and see if it grows any better.> We work in centimetres and litres here in Australia <I wish we did, too!> so I'm not sure of how many gallons but tank is 24inches x 12inches x 12inches. It is certainly not overcrowded, with the LBM and his two new little friends and the plants are (or were) Elodea. <Okay, I do believe that's about 15 US gallons.  I usually recommend goldfish to be kept in tanks where they'll have 15-20 gallons per fish; they are hefty waste producers, and can foul the water very, very quickly.  Three goldfish in a 15g aquarium with an undergravel filter.... well, I can guess that in short order, you'll have some serious nitrate problems, possibly other water quality issues, even with the best maintenance possible.> How do I clean the crud which I assume is collecting under the plastic UGF tray??? <Wonderful question.  I've heard using silicone air hose fed down the lift tube(s) and siphoning from there will help get some of the grunge out.> Should I go easy on the gravel siphon thingee? <Gosh, no.  Vacuum like a madman.  And slap that wet/dry filter back on the tank, too.  Then when you vacuum your gravel, let the filter cartridge stay in the filter so you've got plenty of bacterial life still around.  Probably only vacuum about half the tank each time, as well.> Did another partial change today and the fish are happy and starving but there are lots of floaty bits of plant matter still in there. Should I siphon these out? <Yes, absolutely.  Dead, decaying plant matter will contribute to ammonia problems just as will fish waste.> When I do water changes I use Cycle, ammonia treatment, <Skip the ammonia remover, unless you're registering ammonia on your ammonia test - oho, I should mention/ask that you should be testing for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH - if you don't, please do get yourself a kit, so you can have a better grip on your water quality.  And far better than using ammonia remover schtuff is to simply do more frequent water changes.> pH stabilizer, <What's the pH out of your tap?  It's far more important to keep pH stable than to keep affecting it chemically; goldfish are very pH tolerant, so if your tapwater's anywhere close to decent, they'll be fine with out pH altering chemicals.> Stresszyme, Tristart chlorine and chloramine remover. I let the water sit for 24hours, make sure the temp is the same etc. <Wonderful.> My main concern is that I found out from your site that UGF require lots of work but what work? can you let me know what I need to do to keep my friends happy! <Mostly the weekly vacuuming of gravel, jamming air hose down lift tubes.  UGFs must be cleaned thoroughly and religiously, lest all that waste building up in the gravel begin to poison the fish.  If it is in any way whatsoever possible, please please try to get a larger tank for these fellahs.  Believe me, they'd thank you for it.  Wishing you and your scaly pals well,  -Sabrina> Cheers, Kaz

Penguin 170 or 330 I am starting a freshwater 25 gallon aquarium for the first time. I am using a sand substrate because I like the natural look. Haven't decided on fish yet but plan to set up an average bio-load. I purchased the 330 thinking that you can't have too much filtration but wondering if the 170 is more than adequate. The price for these are almost identical but the 330 has twice as much filter maintenance. Thanks for all the great info on this site. <Well, it is possible that very sluggish or slow-moving fish might not like your tank, but for the most part, the 330 will be just fine.  It's probably a bit of overkill, but if it were me, I'd stick with the 330.  -Sabrina>

Under Gravel Filter Haters. I am big into ugf's. And everybody tells me that they are not worth it. They are more apt to causing pollution in your tank with nitrates. And waste. I think they are a good bio-filtration, But can't really find anything that states their value to a healthy aquarium environment. And to the fact that most that bash ugf's Have never owned one. Or never kept up on cleaning their tank on a regular basis. Is it me or are ugf's worth it when all you use is a powerfilter. Thanks, Very good site and very informative. And you are doing a very good service to the hobby <Thanks.  I am not a big fan of under gravel filters, but...  They are time tested, they work, they are simple, and as long as you keep they clean you should not run into problems, and they are cheap.  Most of my tanks have either live plants, or cichlids, so under gravels do not work well for me.  I also like having filters laying around, so if I need extra filtration on a tank for some reason I can grab my filter, throw it on a tank and plug it in, can't really do that with an UGF.  Different types of tanks, different types of filtration, whatever works, that's my opinion, FWIW,  -Gage>Undergravel Filter? I have a 10 gallon tank with a under ground filter system. Is this a good system to have for this size tank. I don't understand how this would filter the water. Should I get a different filter system? Help please. Megan <For a 10 gallon aquarium I would not use an undergravel filter. Instead I would use a bio-wheel filter which has bio-media that houses the beneficial bacteria that breaks down nitrites/ammonia. Your gravel will also help with the bioload. I found a link to a site where you can purchase a bio-wheel filter- http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_Display.cfm?siteid=6&pCatId=3631 Also check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm for more information on maintaining freshwater aquariums. IanB>

Are protein skimmers any good in freshwater aquariums? Mainly i Discus/Angelfish tanks (water is filtered through peat) <Unfortunately not.  Cody> thank you

Reverse UG filtration? Guys: Just found this site and it is terrific.  I have been out of this hobby for about 20 years or so and am setting up a 40 gallon fresh water tank to get back into this before moving back into salt.  When I left the hobby the newest thing was to get the water flow through your UG filter flowing in reverse.  At that time the set up was done by either drilling a hole in bottom of the tank and running the return water in from the bottom, or using the "lift" tubes as the entry point to send the filtered water down under the gravel.  At the time some of this was done with a sump setup, long before the wet/dry stuff I am reading about or it was done direct with a canister of which I think at the time it was Eheim or nothing.  My question is, can the canister filters on the market today handle this task, if so how much bigger flow rate does one need, or is having a separate water extraction and return system for this function the way to go using a sump and separate pump and then having the canister operate from the sump. Thanks, Jeffrey Osborn <Do go to Fresh water set-ups and read about wet/drys and bio-systems, much more efficient at handling wastes than undergravels run in any direction. Never the less, these are powered by reversible powerheads on the lift tubes on the average tank, but net average results. Best set-ups depending on fish/waste load is built-in overflow/skimmer box(es) plumbed to sump or wet/dry/bio-wheel/sponge type set-up. Canisters for mechanical and chemical filtration per load if needed, either set-up in main or in sump. If you still want to power a UG with a canister, I would size powerheads to tank size to determine needed flow and match combined flow rate with similar rated canister, plus a bit for plumbing restriction. I think it's more trouble than it's worth.  Craig>  

Freshwater Filtration & Water Movement hey guy's how's things ? <TGIF, PF here Raymie> I'm setting up a new tank (standard 6 foot, 180g) <Very nice.> ...It's going to be a Freshwater for a few years, then I'd like to step up to Marine...(or at least till I can afford the 700lb+ of LR and a decent skimmer). < That's a lot of LR! And a decent skimmer can be had for under $200. That said, there are also reef tanks that don't require as much LR, you might want to check out Aquarium Fish Magazine, August 2002, "A Guide to Reef Tank Designs & Setups" by Charles Delbeek and Anthony's Book of Coral Propagation V1 for some alternative reef tank ideas. I'd recommend getting Anthony's book if you're planning on a reef tank. Lots of good stuff in there about design, water chemistry, husbandry, etc.> The tank has been drilled with 2, one and a quarter inch holes....now I was wondering if it would be feasible to set this system up like a marine job I.E. drop gravity to a 3 or 4 foot sump (containing the heaters) and passing it back via a pump to a manifold with tees just above the water surface...< yep, you could even use a wet/dry filter for this since nitrates are less of a factor with FW setups.> would this provide a decent water movement...<Well, I'm no plumbing expert, but I would think so.>or would you consider this irrelevant for a freshwater system...<It all depends on the type of fish you will be keeping. Some appreciate a higher current.>I just figured seen the holes were there I may as well put them to good use. Also I was considering 2 x Eheim Pro 2229 Ext W/D Power filters for the cleanup and Bio duties. <I'm not familiar with those models, but then I keep strictly SW and don't use W/D's (the one that came with my tank is now a refugium). I would do a web search (google is my engine of choice) and see what other people have to say.> Your opinions would be very welcome, many thanks, Raymie <Hope I helped, PF>

Filter inlet restriction Hello, I've been reading your advice for a couple of days now in preparation for building my 125 gal freshwater tank. (Arowana and freshwater stingray). It has been very informative, but I still have some questions.  I wish to use a Nu-clear canister filter w/ the bio media and a Gen-x 1200 gph pump. Now if I use a closed system and drill the hole somewhere in the middle of the back wall of the tank - will it do me any good to drill the hole any larger than 1 inch diameter.  The inlet for the clear-clear filter is only 1 inch diameter.  I can't see drilling a larger hole in the tank being any better than the 1 inch hole if it only has to reduce to the 1 inch when it gets to the filter.  From what I have read in your previous articles though a 1 inch hole can not flow the 1200 gph that I want.  Would it be better to do an open system with a sump which then feeds into the canister filter? <I hesitate to make recommendations, just to point out the differences. If you do this, then tank flow rate is separate from filter capacity/flow rate and you get both 1200 gph and proper filtration (assuming filter is sized to 125 gallons of Arowana poop/wastes!) You take a chance with the closed loop type of set-up, and it isn't as flexible or have as much water volume. The sump allows you to add more filter if needed.>    Then I could do a couple of 2 inch holes at the top of the tank and have them drain into the sump with enough water movement to supply the 1200 gph pump.  But still the water would have to flow out of the sump and into the "restrictive" 1 inch opening in the filter.  Is it simply not possible for the clear-clear filter to flow that rate? (although they do advertise that their canister can flow 1200 gph) Please help! <Simply run the filter on another smaller pump in the sump (all in the cabinet) so the *restriction* is a non-issue. The 1200 gph pump drives the flow/return/sump and the filter runs in the sump on a smaller pump. No compromise!  Hope this helps!  Craig>

Filtration Questions, stocking mixed "ponds" Hi, I inherited a 135 gallon aquarium from a friend about a year ago.   Originally, I had the tank separated in half with Plexiglas with one side being land and the other water - for two yellow belly turtles.  After a short while I got a number of other animals for the aquaterrarium like a clawed water frog and a small variety of fish.  At the time the center barrier was 8 inches high and contained roughly 20 gallons of water.  I bought a Fluval 2Plus filter for the tank which seemed to work well and I changed 50% of the water once a month.  However, as I've gotten a few more fish and raised the water level to 12 inches, I've had some problems.  The water isn't filtering well enough (obviously since it now exceeds the specifications for the Fluval 2plus by about 10 to 15 gallons) it is discolored (kind of green/brownish) and I have to change part of the water 3 or more times a month to keep it looking ok.  I've even added algae-eaters and snails to help, but with little avail.  I haven't lost any fish or turtles yet and don't want to so I'm looking for some answers. <These filters are rated using an accepted level of stocking to determine their "per gallon" capacity. IOW, it is very easy to overstock a given volume of water to the point that the water and filter are overwhelmed. You are there my friend. Fish and turtles together can be a tremendous mess, the algae is from overloaded wastes. Consuming the byproduct doesn't address the cause, overstocking, poor filtration, more as addressed below...> I did receive with the aquarium a Fluval 403 model canister filter containing a ceramic, foam, and charcoal for filter medias, but I do not have any instructions for setup or use (do you know where I might obtain some?) and I am not sure if that would be appropriate or not for my tank. <Go to the Fluval website to obtain this. I would use it in addition to the 2 plus.> I use tap water when I fill the tank, and have tried both biosafe and StressCoat water purifier/conditioners -- should I be worried about any toxins those may not take care of? If so, what might be a simple and inexpensive solution? <Yes, be concerned with chlorine, chloramine (both will kill your fish/bio-filter capacity/etc.) and possible wastes that contribute to algae (ammonia, phosphate, etc.) A complete water test at your Local Fish Store is a good idea.> I'm also curious whether you think my 100 watt heater is sufficient for my tank I believe it is about 30 to 35 gallons of water. <If this is the actual volume, it is okay.> I appreciate any help you can provide and any comments or suggestions above and beyond answering my questions. <Yes, please read the pond and freshwater questions at WetWebMedia.com esp. on filtration, the nitrogen cycle, stocking. I hope this gets you pointed in the right direction. Craig>

Eheim 2215 and 100 gallon Whats up guys! I love your site it is very helpful.  I have a 55 gallon tank with a 10 inch silver Arowana in it.  I am moving him to a 100 gallon tank.  What is the best way to move him without stressing the fish too much?   <If possible, allow the new tank to fully cycle before adding the fish. If you only have room to have one tank set up, use all of the water and if possible the gravel from your existing tank to setup the new tank, this will greatly reduce the cycling process. Then just gently place the fish in his new home. To get him out of the old tank while you transfer the water and gravel I would transfer half to three quarters of the water and then place a clean bucket on its side in the old tank. Carefully herd the fish into the bucket and set it aside until the new tank is ready for him. Hell be fine in the bucket for an hour or two, just be sure to cover it because these guys like to jump!> Also I am thinking of buying an Eheim 2215 canister.  Would that be enough filtration for my tank or do I need to get the 2217. <The 2215 isnt going to provide nearly enough filtration and honestly even the 2217 really doesnt have a high enough output for this size tank. Unless you are planning on running these with another type of filtration I would look for one that has a higher flow rate.> Thanks, Rocky <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: Eheim 2215 and 100 gallon Thanks for the reply.  Would the Eheim 2026 be enough?  In your opinion, is the Fluval a good canister? <Hello there. The 2026 would be better than the 2215. I dont have personal experience with either the Eheim or the Fluval but both seem to come pretty highly recommended. In your situation I think I would choose the Fluval MSF 404 because of the higher gph rating. The Eheim 2026 is rated at 250gph and the 404 is rated at 340gph. Ronni>

- Filtration Frustration - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I have written you guys several times, and I thank you for your continuing assistance. I know you are very busy. <Only busy answering long questions ;-) > Let me know how I can repay your efforts, and I will do so! <Go forth and prosper... save a fish, something like that. Would be plenty.> You have proven a very valuable source of EXPERT information, and this shouldn't be a "one-way" deal! <It isn't - it's a growth opportunity for me.> Now the questions....... and, as always, I apologize for the length of this query....... <I'll put on my seat-belt.> I am still looking for the best way to filter, heat, etc. my 300 gal. central American cichlid tank. I want the best system I can obtain, and do not want to come to the realization in a few months that I could have taken a more prudent path. To bring you up to speed, I have three 22" overflow boxes on the back of the tank all the available area; the remaining 30" are taken up by glass braces) each with two 2" drains (Durso standpipes; can run wide open or just use a few drains depending on flow needs). The water will be returned over the top rear into bulkheads fitted into the glass braces at the top of the tank (similar to the looped manifold you've described many times on this site in the past). So, I've got the drain and return planned.......... all I need now is everything else in between! I have narrowed it down to two options. The first is a custom designed sump with the following components: micron bag, bio-media (bio-balls), chemical chambers, and open area for heaters, etc. <Ahh... very Jaubert.> Return would be accomplished by two Iwaki pumps (allowing one to be serviced while the other still powered some degree of flow). The problem I'm having with this plan is the micron bag / bio-ball arrangement. While the tank stand is 40" high, and there is plenty of space underneath, I am struggling to develop a plan to first pass the water through the bag and then OVER the bioballs. I had considered a tower for the bag over the bioballs, but I'd like to keep the entire thing contained in the basic sump. Could I chamber the bag leaving the top few inches of the partition lower than the top of the sump allowing an overflow onto a drip plate? <You could - or you could build a tray arrangement with filter pads above the bioballs, rather than the filter bag, somewhat similar to the TidePool sumps. Wouldn't be hard to do a higher quality version of that design. Perhaps even use a biowheel instead of the bioballs.> The bioballs would then be arranged more horizontally than vertically to allow most of it to remain exposed to air (assuming the sump runs at about 1/2 to 1/3 full of water). I realize I may need a 5' or so sump to allow enough lateral space for the bioball chamber (plenty of space, though, in an 8' cabinet). If that all worked, I would then just have to decide on an inline vs. standard submersible heater. PLAN TWO: Obtain a contained commercial unit from Aquanetics. I have heard opinions about both sides of this issue, so just let me include my latest correspondence with them for you information and comments:..................... MY REQUEST TO AQUANETICS: Have a 300 gallon tank with six 2" overflows. Housing big Central American Cichlids and need plenty of flow. Mechanical prefiltration is important as is ease of cleaning the prefilter. Need biomedia, micron filtration, UV, heat, and capability to work with an Iwaki pump (preferrably plumbed all together). Temp, pH, and other water quality readings would be needed if possible. Looking for the complete system I guess. I would have to be considerably oversized for the system due to the messy habits of the fish. 3000 gallons per hour flow minimum. Please advise with specifics (models, dimensions, space requirements, etc.). Thanks in advance. THEIR RESPONSE: Thank you for your interest in our equipment and systems.  I recommend the following pieces of equipment for your 3,000 gph cichlid system:

 175-30  Commercial system pak      $3,748.63
PVC5332  53 gallon pvc sump tank with bracing for biofilter  $592.88
B122  1â x 2â x 2â Bioreactor trickle filter with biomedia $1,010.60
TH-2000  Ticore commercial inline heater (2000 watts)   $1,005.25
Total $6,357.36

<Ouch.> This is the estimate for what this equipment would cost.  This price does not include crating or shipping charges.  Please let me know if you are interested in a computer control and monitoring system for water quality data-logging and control. I look forward to your reply to this initial estimate and hope to have the opportunity to build you the best filtration system on the market today. BACK TO MY CURRENT QUESTIONS: What are your thoughts? Sounds like a good deal of money for something that is of dubious worth (at least that's what I've heard). Still, if this is the way to go........ let me know. I want the simplest and most effective choice. <Well, I have several - first, I thought you were on the right track - Aquanetics does make "commercial grade" filtration, but I'm not convinced about it's longevity or durability - especially in some of the larger components, they're really designed for swimming pools. Also, I think you could have the sump made from acrylic for much less. Lastly, I don't think you need the "commercial system pak" - I'm not sure exactly what that is but for $3,000 I'm sure you could do much better. Much of their actually equipment isn't even made by them, it's just relabeled and packaged together for your consumption so a little more leg-work on your part will save you some cash.> Also, they note water quality monitors. Exactly what is available? I hate testing for Nitrate and Phosphate every week or so! I know pH, temp. and ORP are available, but I'd gladly pay for a Nitrate monitor if one existed. <Well... if you were considering the $6k for the filter, perhaps you'd like to spend $2k on a computerized analysis device - you'd still need to put water samples in it, but they do exist. Personally, I'd just use a test kit.> Thanks again for your help, and I'm serious about wanting to repay your ongoing courtesy! <Cheers, J -- >

Freshwater / Saltwater Sand Bed Gentlemen, Hope you can help me.  I'm in the process of setting up a large aquarium - 750 gallons.   Plan to initially set up as freshwater for a year or two and transition to saltwater at a future date.  For freshwater, I'm debating between Under Gravel filtration w/external mechanical filtration vs sand bed and external mechanical and wet/dry filtration.  Thoughts? <I would not use a sub gravel filter here... too much maintenance, downsides> If I go the sand bed route - is there a type of sand that will work for both fresh and salt set-ups?  Recommendations are appreciated! <Only for freshwater organisms that appreciate hard, alkaline water. The substrates of utility for marines are mainly calcium carbonate based. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm> Thanks.  Your website has been a source of great help. <Ahh, glad to find you are familiar. Bob Fenner> Regards, Steve Walker

RE: Freshwater / Saltwater Sand Bed Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. Given that I hope to initially set-up the 750 gal tank as freshwater with eyes toward community tank - tetras, Gouramis, angels, etc... - what type of sand bed should I begin with for fresh and what depth? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks again. Steve Walker

RE: Freshwater / Saltwater Sand Bed Bob, Good article.  Thanks for the primer.  Live plants are probably not a design criteria. <One never knows... and about the same notions apply for non-planted freshwater systems> The aquarium will be 45" tall - so concerned about my ability to provide adequate lighting for live plants.  Am I wrong to shy away from live plants? <Not "wrong"... not absolutely necessary... but do add a great deal, make the system more beautiful, easier to manage...> Assuming no live plants (rock aquascape + plastic plants) can I make use of the natural gravel available from LFS (5mm dia) about 4" deep? <Yes> If I use this, how does this become less maintenance than using, say a 10mm dia gravel w/ UG filter?   <Yes> I must be missing something about how anaerobic conditions in sand bed are less work/dangerous than possible dead spots in a UG filter.  Sorry if I'm being slow.   <No problem. There are many and differing (!) opinions re this issue. Lacking the plate and dead space of an undergravel filter will make the gravel easier to vacuum. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help and patience. Steve

Refugium Hi Anthony, or whoever gets this.  I was pondering about the all important refugium.   <nothing to ponder... go for it! Many different kinds and so many benefits. Just no Caulerpa unless you want a part-time job and have a very heavy bio-load in the tank to require it> I know that it is a must have, and on the tank that I am setting up for Saltwater, I have already laid out the plans, and I am going to make it part of the display.   <very cool> My question was, "If they are so good for a saltwater tank, would they be good for a freshwater tank as well?" <absolutely> I was thinking about a 10 gallon refugium for my 55 gallon discus/angel tank.  There was one inhabitant that inspired this.  He is a small angel that is always getting terrorized by some of the considerably larger angels.  So I was going to set it up for him, and some plants that are not doing well because the other angels like to eat them.  Are there any special considerations I should take in to account, <hmmm... well. You really wont have a true refugium for microfauna... but it will be a refugium for the small angel <G>. You win by fault/definition in the purest sense of the word> and are there any benefits that I might not know about on a freshwater system?   <exactly like saltwater... plants on reverse light cycle will stabilize pH, fishless 'fuge can develop rich microfauna, etc> Also I will be turning the lights off at night. I know that in saltwater if you leave them on, it helps keep the pH stable.  Will this be a problem? <no problem... just no benefit of pH stability realized> Thanx for your time,-Brandon- <best regards, Anthony>

UV in freshwater aquaria Hello, <Hi there> Ive read a lot of your FAQ on using UV sterilizers on marine aquaria but I havent found anything about using UV in freshwater aquaria. Ive just bought a 480 litre tank which is cycling at the moment and I am considering buying a UV unit, principally because of the practicality of chemically treating a tank this size for disease and the lack of availability of a quarantine tank for the larger size fishes that I intend to keep in it, as well as the cost of stock replacement and the fact that I really HATE seeing fish suffer. My local dealer recommends a Vecton 8 watt unit or a pond clear 6 watt unit but this is contradicted buy the advice on the Vecton box which suggests a 25 watt unit for this tank size. <I would go with the Vecton 25 watt unit... this line is made by Tropic Marine Centre there in the UK... and is superlative... but size of system, flow rate through the unit should be matched.> I have two questions what are the pros and cons of using a UV unit in a freshwater setup? (My dealer says it will eradicate 99% of disease problems!) and if you recommend a UV unit for my setup, which one of the ones I have mentioned? <I don't know about 99%... but will help reduce incidence, virulence of water born pathogens... and improve water quality overall. The only negative is the initial and operating costs... electricity and bulb replacement. Bob Fenner> ------------------------------------------------------------------- Bob - I have read that UV can adversely affect compounds added to the water column to supplement plant growth. I think I recall one thread somewhere that suggested chelated iron would be oxidized(?) or otherwise changed, thereby rendering it unavailable to the plants. <Yes, this is possible> On the other hand, I also read that plants ~do not~ directly use the chelated iron but rather the ionic iron that is only briefly available once the organic chelates break down. <I have read this and believe it to be so. There are ways (soil use, lower pH, substrate heating) to skew/increase the amount of available iron in captive systems> Have I massacred the facts here or is there something to all of this? Put another more general way, are the benefits, great or small, of UV sterilization in a freshwater aquarium offset by some deleterious impact on the ability to grow aquatic plants? <IMO/E, in the vast majority of cases the home freshwater hobbyist is not benefited "that much" from U.V. use... some incremental (a few percent) improvement in overall water quality, some diminishment in the likelihood of infectious and parasitic disease. In multiple tank systems or settings (e.g. commercial) where there is a large vacillation in incoming livestock, load, the balance/opinion of whether to use UV changes to a positive.    The availability of iron issue is likewise not much of a concern... as ferrous materials are by and large not in suspension... and hence wouldn't make their way into/through the UV.    Thank you for this input. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Tim

RE: UV in freshwater aquaria Fair play I'm impressed. I only sent this email last night! <We must need race to keep up with the volume...!> Really appreciate you getting back to me. I suspect I shall be contacting you in the future! <Real good> Just to clarify one point, you mention the flow rate through the system should be matched and I'm not sure what you mean.  I have an eheim pro II 2028 filter in this tank, will the flow rate be too much past the uv unit? <Ahh, yes. There is an optimum and maximum flow rate, an estimate of just how much water can be run through the contact chamber of the U.V. and still approach a 100% kill ratio. Strictly speaking, in recirculated systems of your type (versus multiple tanks, or open systems with the water coming in from a source and being vented to waste), there is no maximum... with some (diluted) benefit accruing per pass (though not the theoretical 100% kill rate per pass...)> I was planning to put it on the pipe which returns the water to the tank after going through the filter. <Yes, this is best> Thanks again, I can't say how impressed I am with the speed of your reply. Do you guys do this on a voluntary basis? <Yes. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

FW Filtration Howdy, I found your site and read for a few hours yesterday learning a TON of information regarding my new 30 gallon freshwater tank. <Glad we have found each other> The basic setup that I have is a 30 gallon Power Filter, 100 watt heater, thermometer, ammonia chart (which changes color in the presence of ammonia), 2 plastic plants, and one large plastic magma/lava rock formation.  I have (2) small 3 inch Tiger Oscars, and one 4 inch blue channel catfish.  When I first got my tank I had read differing ways of cycling the tank for the first time and the leading websites, not yours, recommended just starting the tank with 2 to 3 small, hardy fish. <Yes> Let me start by what I did wrong: WAY overfed them, tried a bunch of different chemicals (store-bought) to deal with the ammonia problem.  This led to ICK which I am now treating with CURE-ICK. <Yikes! Quite an adventure> Today I literally cleaned my whole tank with a light bleach solution and a 100% water change.  I know this will now need to start the new cycle again and is but a temporary solution but I wanted to get all of the scuz out of my tank and start fresh and hopefully a little wiser. <Much better> The questions that I have are as follows: How often should my fish be fed on a normal basis?  Every day or every other?  This is what my LFS recommended because of my ammonia problem. <Twice a day for most aquarium fishes that might go in a thirty gallon system... some need to be target fed (like sinking pellets for bottom dwellers)... If you suspect ammonia et al. nitrogenous wastes might be a problem you're encouraged to get and use test kits... not to feed at all if the ammonia, nitrite approach 1.0 ppm.> How MUCH should I feed my fish?  A friend claims the stomach is about the size of the eye. <Better to use time as a guide here. Tap some food into the top of the can it comes in for gauging about how much you're applying... and see if they eat this much in a couple, three minutes... there should be no food laying about> What other type of filtration would you recommend besides the Power filter that I have?  Please try to give me the best solution under $200. <Perhaps adding an airstone, pump for same, tubing, a check-valve... the present power filter is fine otherwise> Erm, anything else that you can help me with would awesome and thanks again! Awesome website!!! Jim Howrie <Looking forward to your future participation. Bob Fenner>

FW Filtration Thanks for the speedy reply!  I do have an air pump, tubing, and one of those fibrous release tubes.  I have the air pump set to max for the most aeration possible but do not use an air stop or check valve. <Do get one or at least "loop" your tubing above the aquarium height... to discount the possibility of back-siphoning (started by capillation) in the event of power or pump failure> My main concern is that the filter will not really allow enough of a medium for "good" bacteria to set up on.  Another problem is feeding.  These Oscars will eat and eat damn near non-stop if I feed them.  I was target feeding the catfish.  I would drop about 3-4 shrimp pellets into the corner where he hangs out just after I turn out the light at night. <Good technique> How long should the light be on for a day?  Should I get on of those little timers to regulate the light? <A good idea. If no plants, about any length, regimen you like... perhaps ten, twelve hours a day> And I know that you are an expert and all, but are you sure there isn't a better way for me to filter?  Such as getting a biological filter or a combo or something? <Mmm, more filtration would be better, will be absolutely necessary with your fishes growth... you could add another outside power filter (hang on or canister type)...> I will eventually get a larger set up when the Oscars get larger so anything that you recommend now should and will be used for the larger tank anyway so it would not be a waste of money.  From what I have read on your website too much filtration is never a problem. <This is correct> So what type of filter system would you recommend for a freshwater say 55 gallon tank? <For Oscars et al., vigorous outside power filtration, powerheads in the tank to add circulation, aeration... and frequent partial water changes... likely ten, twenty percent a week, with gravel vacuuming.> Thanks again!!! Jim Howrie

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