Sliding Some Space For 'Tom's Tanks' - Feb. 24, 2010
Good morning from the keyboard.
With our new Web page options, Animal Essentials can reach into further depths to bring some information to you, our valued readers and customers.
One of the interesting facets about our store is the 16-tank aquarium display. Now, we know Tom is pushing hard for 32 tanks to really create an impression, but we move slower than Chris Pronger skates on some items so we'll keep him patient.
However, his love of fish is evident. We have some truly devoted fish customers at the store and Tom will be writing from time-to-time on the Web page about proper fish maintenance.
There is a lot to the hobby...if you want it to become a hobby and not a chore or a disappointment.
Please put your hands together for Tom as he makes his debut under Tom's Tanks:
I’m Tom and I am the one doing most of the maintenance on the fish tanks at Animal Essentials. My folks always had me around animals, but they got me my first goldfish in a bowl when I was around three-years-old.
Not the best way to start and I do not suggest keeping goldfish in a bowl or anything in a bowl for that matter, but it was a start. Since then I have kept many fish and other pets. I did a massive expansion when I moved to
When I moved out of there, I did another large expansion of tanks....a little too large of an expansion. In the present, I have downsized and only have six tanks running at the moment. A 10 gallon for triops (still getting that set up), a 20 gallon for newts, a 36 gallon for livebearers, loaches and small corydoras, a 36 gallon for a few goldfish, a 55 gallon for my nine year old male Red Ear Slider Turtle named Howard and a 55 gallon home to my Bala sharks, angelfish and some Pimodella angelicus with a large five year old named Bubba. Most of my fish do come from Animal Essentials which is kind of how I started working there. I think almost all the employers were customers before they started working at Animal Essentials.
That was my short intro. I am not a journalist and I do not do much writing anymore, mostly just calculus, statistics, a little HTML and writing about bacterial growth.... Anyway, I have been asked to start up a column about fish for the Animal Essentials’ Web site, but you must know that since you are reading this or at least most of it.
But to the part that matters, fish are an excellent pet. They are quiet, relatively cheap, fun to watch and low maintenance compared to other pets. On the downside, they do take time to set up and there is no vet to help you as far as I know.
The biggest thing is patience.
Setting up a fish tank at the start properly will help you in the long run. There is something called “cycling a fish tank” and this is something I suggest as well as many others. It is a pain, especially if you have kids who want to put fish in a tank ASAP.
I am not going to get into the technical side of cycling a tank, but the basic idea is you want bacteria in your filter. Water does not just take care of itself. Fish produce waste, just like any organism. This turns into ammonia which is toxic to fish. There is a bacteria that “converts” (for a simple term) ammonia into nitrite. Nitrite is also toxic to fish. There is another bacteria that “converts” nitrite into nitrate which is less toxic for fish. Once your fish tank has 0 ppm of ammonia, 0 mg/L of nitrite and a high amount of nitrate, your tank is ready.
You can buy test kits to check these water parametres to see where you are at in the cycling process. We sell strips (which are extremely easy to use and my favourite) and we have a few liquid tests which involve more work from the user. Now back to the water chemistry, this can take months, but will be better for your fish and you in the long run. Once this level is reached, do a water change, a large one, at least 60 per cent.
Do not worry about the bacteria, most of it is in your filter in the bio media (sponge, biomax, anything with a lot of surface area that is non toxic and not anti-bacterial). Do not rinse that bio media under tap water, chlorine and other substances are not good for the bacteria and can kill the process. Make sure to use a water conditioner like stress coat or aqua safe to make sure nothing in your water will hurt the fish or cycle.
If you want to cheat the process of cycling, find someone with a tank that was cycled and take some of their bio media. The bacteria will be on the bio media and your tank will be cycled in days or less. This is a much easier method.
The boring chemical stuff is done with now, so you can enjoy your fish tank.
I am not a big decoration fan myself, I like the natural looking tanks, but there are lots of things that can go in a fish tank. Live plants are always an excellent choice since its good for the fish, water and oxygen levels. I am expecting to bring in more live plants on Mar. 4, hopefully some floating ones too. Plants release oxygen, use carbon dioxide and nitrates. They add good stuff for your fish and remove some of the bad...can’t complain there. There are always lots of rocks, ornaments and other items at Animal Essentials (some of them are on sale, too!) to put in your tank, so that is up to you. Setting up a tank can be fun if you make it fun with caves and other safe setups.
When it comes to adding fish, this is something that should be researched before anything is bought. Some fish get very large and I do not normally bring in those fish to Animal Essentials, but some pet stores do so you need to do some research beforehand to let you be in control and be able to decide what fish or animal is best for you. Things like common plecos, id sharks, black sharks and Oscars get large and need lots of space. ID sharks can get to four feet in length....I do not know about you, but I do not have a tank that big! Even the common goldfish can reach over a foot in length. So be prepared for some large fish if you purchase these fish. If I ever need a question answered for fish, I go to the East Coast Aquarium Society, http://www.eastcoastaquariumsociety.ca/forum/index.php. The members there know their stuff and will provide you with some good information about anything aquatic.
My only other suggestions for fish tanks are to not start small. Maintaining small tanks like 20 gallons or less is harder than maintaining larger tanks. Concentrations of toxic substances rise faster in a smaller amount of water, so the larger you go, the easier it will be. I do more maintenance on the tanks at work than I do on my tanks at home and mine are much larger. My other suggestion is to get a good filter and heater. Filters are expensive, but make life much easier. You still have to do water changes when using filters, but not as much as you would need to if you did not have a filter. Try to at least use filters (or add filters) so your total filtration is double the size suggested for your tank. Example: one of my 36 gallon tanks has a filter suggested for a 70 gallon tank. As for heaters, using the one suggested for your size tank will be great. Using a smaller heater will make the heater work harder and it may not last as long. Once your initiate set up for a fish tank is complete, it gets cheaper. It does cost a lot of money to get a fish tank started properly. After the initial set up, the cost of maintenance is much cheaper. Frankly, even a Betta should have at least a three gallon, filtered and heated tank to make it happier. If they do not have this requirement, the lifespan is cut shorter. I have had Bettas that live over eight years old and have bred. They are quite the social creature if provided the right supplies.
Anyway, this is probably too long for an intro to my column, but if even one person starts up the fish path and enjoys it, it will be worth it.
On a side note, there are 90 guppies arriving this Saturday to Animal Essentials. Most will be female (at least I hope) since in the guppy world, it’s best to have more females than males. The guppies come from Miramichi, which is always nice. Also there will be a fish order expected Mar. 4. I have not made it up yet, so who knows what will be coming in.
See you around the store.