Questions & Answers

• Nitrogen Cycle
• Aquarium Cleaning and Setup
• Aquarium Fish Setup
• Aquarium Water Problems
• Aquarium Product Maintenance
• Aquarium Fish Maintenance

• Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen CycleQ. What is the nitrogen cycle?

The Nitrogen Cycle is the process that is responsible in keeping your fish happy and healthy. Fish produce ammonia. Unfortunately ammonia is highly toxic and can lead to the death of your fish. Low concentrations of ammonia will begin to burn the gills of fish and cut off their oxygen supply. Bacteria found in oxygen rich areas then begin to eat ammonia, creating a by-product known as nitrite. Nitrite is also toxic to fish and can affect the health of the fish and eventually lead to its death. Bacteria found in oxygen deprived areas then begin to eat nitrite, converting it to a less harmful nitrate. Nitrate is removed through absorption from plants and through water changes.








• Aquarium Cleaning and Setup

Q: How do I safely clean a glass aquarium before setting it up?

A: All that is required to remove any dust/dirt that may have accumulated in the tank is to wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth or sponge. Do not use soap or any other cleaning product.

Q: Should I rinse the gravel before adding it to the aquarium?

A: Gravel is often dusty/dirty when it is purchased. Rinsing gravel helps prevent cloudy water when the tank is set up.
Marine sand/gravel (other than “Live” substrates) virtually always requires a good rinsing.

Questions and Answer FishQ: I see a hard, whitish build-up on the glass and equipment. What is it and how do I remove it?

A: The whitish build-up sometimes seen on aquarium equipment is usually either a hard-water or salt deposit caused by evaporating water. This build-up is easily removed using white vinegar and gentle abrasion with a sponge or scrub pad. Vinegar is not toxic in small amounts, but care should be taken to rinse any equipment after cleaning and glass surfaces should be wiped with a clean dry cloth or paper towel.

Q: How many hours per day should I keep the aquarium lights
on for?

A: Aquariums without live plants or corals don’t need much light, and keeping the light on less will discourage algae growth. That being said, most aquarium animals are tropical and come from parts of the world that receive on average 12 hours of sunlight per day. A minimum of 6 hours of light per day is recommended to encourage
fish to behave normally and display their best colors. Live plants and
corals require a fair bit of light every day, and lights should be on for 10-12 hours per day to promote optimum growth.

• Aquarium Fish Setup

Q. When can I add fish to my new aquarium?

Once the water has been dechlorinated, the aquarium has been brought up to proper temperature, and all of the equipment is running properly, allow your aquarium to run for at least 48 hours before adding your first fish. Some fish do better than others in a new aquarium, your Big Al's sales representative will be more than happy to assist you in choosing your first fish.

Q. What types of fish should I add to my aquarium?

The types of fish that you add to your aquarium is of course a personal choice. However, if this is a new aquarium or your first aquarium then some special considerations need to be made. New aquariums, and novice aquariums, are not suitable habitats for more delicate types of fish, and so for the first few months only hardy types of fish should be kept, as it will result in less frustration on the part of the aquarist. For a more detailed answer your Big Al's sales representative will gladly assist you further.

• Aquarium Water Problems

Q. My water is cloudy. How can I clear the water?

If you're dealing with a new aquarium, cloudy water is best cleared by simply giving the aquarium time to adjust. It is a sign that something is slightly(and sometimes, majorly) out of balance in the aquarium. This would be understandable in a new aquarium set-up. Generally, attempting to fix cloudy water will cause more problems than it will solve. For aquariums that have been in operation for a several weeks or longer, cloudy water is an indication of imbalance of the water chemistry and should not be ignored. Taking a sample of your aquarium water into your Big Al's location for analysis or purchasing an aquarium test kit to ensure all perimeters are within a safe range is highly recommended. In all cases a small (20%) partial water change and reduction of the amount of food being offered should help improve water clarity.

Q. My water is green!

Green water is a symptom of nutrient overload in an aquarium, and usually result when nitrates and phosphates from fish waste build up, combined with some strong illumination, such as sunlight from a window. Regular water changes and proper feeding techniques, combined with appropriate stocking levels in the aquarium will prevent this common problem. If the problem persists, there are many products available to help kill the algae, and remove the nutrients.

Q. My water has a very bad smell to it. How can I eliminate the smell?

Bad smelling water is usually a sign that something is decaying inside the aquarium. Trying to locate the source of and removing it (i.e. dead fish/uneaten food etc.) this along with a partial water change while gravel cleaning plus the addition of new activated carbon should rectify this problem.

Q. Why should I test the water in my aquarium?

Q & A Pic3Just because the water is clear, it doesn't mean it is clean. Water testing is important so that you can track how well you are caring for your aquarium, and adjust your tactics when needed.

• Aquarium Product Maintenance

Q. How often should I change the water in my aquarium?

For most aquariums, a 25% water change should be performed every 1 to 3 weeks. The determining factor to be is the size of your aquarium, amount of fish your have and the amount and type of food your are feeding your fish with.

• Aquarium Fish Maintenance

Q. How often do I feed my fish?

Most tropical fish can be fed 1-2 times per day. Marine species may need to be fed much more often. All food offered should be consumed within 1-2 minutes.

Q. What do I feed my fish?

Different groups of fish have different dietary needs. That being said, the majority of freshwater tropical’s as well as goldfish can and will eat a staple flake food, or staple pellets if they are larger fish. However, there are many tropical’s that will need food that actually resembles natural prey; in other words they will need frozen food such as brine shrimp, mysis, blood worms, etc. There are also certain tropical fish, especially in the cichlid family, that require a mostly vegetable diet, and so spirulina flakes will be more appropriate. Many bottom feeders will need food that sinks to the bottom of the tank where they live, as they will not have access to floating foods. Giving your fish a well banked variety of different foods will ensure healthy active fish.

Q. My fish has turned dark black or has its colour washed out. What is happening?

Colour changes in fish to either very light or very dark coloration indicate that something is wrong, and that the fish is ‘stressed’. This doesn’t mean they need a vacation from work, it means that something is wrong with their environment that is causing them to become ill. If you notice large colour changes in your fish, test your water and look for other signs of disease, and act appropriately.
Q & A Pic 4
Q. My fish has a cloudy looking eye, why?

There are many factors that can cause your fish’s eye to appear cloudy. One of the most common causes is poor water quality. Check your water parameters and make necessary changes if nitrates, nitrites or ammonia are above acceptable levels. Doing regular water changes and properly maintaining your filter will help maintain a healthy environment for your fish. A good maintenance routine will ensure cloudy eye and related bacterial infections are rare if ever.

Q. My fish has torn or shredded fins, what can I do?

Torn or shredded fins are usually a result of aggressive chasing and nipping behaviour in your aquarium. There are many solutions to the problem, including removing the aggressor or the victim to another tank, or re-arranging the decorations to disturb the established territories in your aquarium. It is possible that the torn fins are attributed to a bacterial infection in this situation torn fins are usually accompanied by red or white blotches. Treatments are available at Big Al’s. Follow the directions on the medication and follow proper aquarium husbandry practices to avoid a relapse.

Q. My fish is covered in tiny white spots, like it has been sprinkled with salt. What can I do?

Tiny white spots on a fish is a disease referred to as ‘ich’. It is caused by tiny burrowing single celled parasites. Usually fish can fight ich off by themselves if they are healthy, and the aquarium is well maintained. However, stressed fish in poorly maintained aquariums may succumb to ich. Treatments are available at Big Al’s. Follow the directions on the medication and follow proper aquarium husbandry practices to avoid a relapse.

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