Aquarium Tips, Aquarium Filtration

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Wet/Dry Filters

In our last post, we discussed Canister filters.

As mentioned, three custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup are:

  • Hang-on-Back filters (low-end),
  • Canister filters (mid-range), and
  • Wet/Dry filters (high-end).

When used properly, each one can keep the fish in your aquarium setup healthy, and reduce the work for aquarium maintenance.  

We have one type of filter to review, and that is a Wet/Dry filter.

A wet/dry filter is, by far, the best filter you can put on any aquarium that does not have live plants or coral in it. Wet/Dry filters usually consist of an acrylic box that sits beneath the aquarium. Water is drained from the aquarium and directed to the filter via an overflow box. Overflow boxes can be hung on the back of the aquarium or you can purchase an aquarium with an overflow box built into it already. These are called “reef-ready” aquariums.

The hang-on models are great if you have an existing aquarium that you are adding a wet/dry filter to, but they need to be monitored regularly. A hang-on overflow box works by siphoning water from a box inside the aquarium to another box outside the aquarium and then the water drains down to the filter. If power goes out, the siphon can stop working and will not start itself again once the power is restored. This means that, if/when power is restored, the filter pump will start pumping water from the filter to the aquarium but the drain will not work to drain the water back down to the filter. If this happens, your aquarium will spill over onto the floor until you turn the pump off, restart the siphon, or all of the water is pumped out of the filter.  The built-in overflow boxes are the safest because they will eliminate the possibility of flooding due to power outages but reef-ready aquariums are not available in smaller sizes and are more expensive than their basic counterparts.

Once the water reaches the wet/dry filter it is directed over a “drip-plate”. The drip-plate is a flat plate with many small holes in it designed to change the water flow from one large stream into many smaller streams (like a shower head) and displaces them over a larger area. The drip-plate is usually covered with a mechanical filter pad to trap large particles of waste, keeping them from moving into the rest of the filter. This pad should be changed periodically to ensure proper flow through the filter.

Under the drip-plate is a compartment that holds bio-balls. The drip-plate spreads the flow of water out so that it falls over and through all of the bio-balls evenly. This compartment is where a majority of the filtration occurs. As discussed earlier, the bio-balls are capable of holding a very large amount of beneficial bacteria because of the way each ball is constructed. In a wet/dry filter, the bio-balls are suspended above the water in the filter so they are constantly exposed to air. This means the bacteria will have the maximum amount of oxygen available to them and will allow them to thrive and work more efficiently.

Another benefit of suspending the bio-balls above the water is aeration of the aquarium water. Once the water is broken up by the drip-plate, it passes through the bio-balls as small droplets and hits a network of spikes on the balls as it passes through them. Each time a droplet hits another spike it is broken up and then rejoined with other droplets. This process forces oxygen into the water, which is then collected in a reservoir under the bio-balls and pumped back to the aquarium. It is this capability that makes the wet/dry filter the best choice for your freshwater or marine, fish-only aquarium.

There are, however, a few negatives about wet/dry filters. For starters, they are more expensive than most canister filters. Another issue is size. Most are bulky and only fit in cabinets made for larger aquariums. Wet/Dry filters generally do not have a convenient means of using chemical filter medias either. This problem can usually be overcome with some minor customization by the user or with the addition of a small canister filter.

If you have a freshwater aquarium with live plants, a wet/dry filter will over-produce oxygen and push out the CO2 necessary for your plants to thrive. In a reef aquarium, the bio-balls will over-produce nitrates and can cause harm to your corals and other invertebrate animals. Finally, wet/dry filters do not come with a pump to move the water from the filter to the aquarium. This is because most wet/dry filters can be used on a range of aquarium sizes but a pump is more specific and should be selected based on the aquarium size. When purchasing a wet/dry filter, you must keep in mind that the pump will be an additional cost to your filter purchase.

Once the filter type has been determined, you can turn your attention to other accessories you required types of aquaria you may set up.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help. 

Aquarium Tips, Aquarium Filtration

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Canister Filters

There are three commonly used custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup:

  • Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters are the low-end filter,
  • Canister filters are the mid-range filter, and
  • Wet/Dry filters are the high-end filters.

Each has pros and cons, however, when used properly, can keep the fish in your aquarium setup happy and healthy for a lifetime, and reduce the work for aquarium maintenance.  In this post, we are going to explain Canister filters.

Canister filters are the next step up in the world of aquarium filtration. These filters are a bit more expensive than the HOB filters but have much more capacity and flexibility. Canister filters are canisters that sit below the aquarium and have an intake hose and an exhaust hose which carry the water to and from the aquarium. These hoses present a major advantage over HOB filters because they allow you to spread the intake and exhaust ports across the aquarium from each other, providing the maximum amount of water circulation possible. The filters are also compartmentalized to separate each of the three filter components.

Most canister filters are designed to accept all types of filter media, making them totally customizable. In other words, the user has the freedom to put any media into the filter. This can be helpful when battling different water quality issues such as phosphate or nitrate buildup. Canister filters are generally very user friendly and media changes/filter cleanings are rather simple to perform.

The downside to canisters is they are designed as sealed systems. In a sealed system, the media itself cannot aid in the aeration process because the media is completely submerged and no air can get to it. The filter exhaust must be placed above the water surface in order to aerate the aquarium. This makes canister filters a poor choice for marine aquariums unless they are grossly oversized for the application. Having the exhaust above the water surface in a marine aquarium will create a tiny bit of splashing, and this splashing will result in “salt-creep”. Salt-creep is when salt crystals build on areas where salt-water has splashed and then evaporated. This is messy and can be very damaging as salt is extremely destructive to things like wood and metal (typical materials used in aquarium furniture). Marine aquariums also require a tremendous amount of aeration so a wet/dry filter is more appropriate for marine applications.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help.  

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Tips

Choosing a Custom Aquarium Filter: Hang-on-Back Filters

There are three commonly used custom aquarium filters to select from when choosing your setup:

  • Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters are the low-end,
  • Canister filters are the mid-range filter, and
  • Wet/Dry filters are the high-end filters.

Each has pros and cons, however, when used properly, can keep the fish in your aquarium setup happy and healthy for a lifetime.  In this post, we are going to explain Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters.

HOB filters are compact, inexpensive and, yes, you guessed it, hang on the back of your aquarium. These are intended primarily for freshwater use and should only be used in marine applications by the experienced hobbyist. They usually consist of simple, removable cartridges, which should contain three filter elements. Some still use a single all-in-one cartridge you replace each month. The advantage to the hang-on-back filter is ease of use. All you have to do is change one element every month in order to refresh your carbon filter. The downside, is you will be throwing away a large portion of the aquarium’s good bacteria with each cartridge and your aquarium will go through a short unstable period while the bacteria re-grow.

Most HOB manufacturers have thought of this, and now include a second cartridge just for the bacteria to grow on. This cartridge gets left alone or only rinsed every month while the other cartridge still gets replaced. Some have gone one step further and include three separate cartridges for mechanical filtration, chemical filtration, and biological filtration. The benefit is the ability to properly maintain a bacteria culture in the filter. The down side is there are now three filter-elements to be maintained. They are still very simple to use as they are intended for beginner aquarists. HOB filters, due to their compact construction, only circulate the small portion of the aquarium water directly in front of the filter. For smaller aquariums ,this is a negligible problem but for larger, longer aquariums an alternative, or multiple HOBs, should be used.

Have questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help.

Custom Aquarium Design, Aquarium Tips

Small Space Aquariums

In our last post, we talked about some of the things to consider when choosing a large aquarium. If you are working with limited space and must choose a smaller custom aquarium, then you should only purchase fish that will stay small enough to live in the aquarium for their entire life. When purchasing fish, do not assume they will stay the same size as you see them in the store. A majority of what you will find in retail stores are juvenile fish, and are only a fraction of their adult size.

A great example is a very common freshwater fish called the “iridescent shark”. First of all, the iridescent shark is not a shark at all. It is a type of catfish. Second, the name does not refer to just one species of fish. It refers to a number of species in the Pangasius genus that look very similar as juveniles. Most of the iridescent shark species grow to be over 3 feet long. One even reaches 10 feet in the wild! As you can see, the cute, “3-inch-miniature-shark-looking” fish that you thought would be really cool to have in your 10-gallon aquarium may possibly grow to a “not-so-cute-anymore-what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-with-this” fish.

As mentioned always, it is always best to educate yourself BEFORE you purchase equipment and/or animals. Research the animals you like and find out how big they can grow, how much space they require, how aggressive they are and what foods they eat. This will ensure a proper selection of animals for your tank and will help you avoid problems down the line.

Aquarium Tips, Custom Aquarium Design

Large Aquarium Considerations

You hear the phrase "Go Big or Go Home" a lot lately.  If you are thinking about a large-scale custom aquarium at your home or business, make sure to consider all the steps involved for setup and aquarium maintenance. Taking additional time to plan -- prior to buying and setting up your large tanks -- is worth it and will save you both money and frustration later.

If you do choose a large aquarium (over 90 gallons), make sure the floor area you are placing it on is properly supported. Remember, freshwater weighs approximately 8 lbs/gallon and salt water weighs approximately 8.5 lbs/gallon. In most new construction buildings (post-1960), this issue does not arise. In older buildings, placing the aquarium along a structurally supported wall usually ensures proper aquarium support. If you are unsure of the structural capacity of the flooring, do not assume it will work. Consult an engineer for a professional opinion.

There are many more things to take into consideration, such as tank or stand construction, power access, heating & cooling, overflows & leveling, and safety.  The professional aquarium experts at Diamond Aquatics can help recommend the best solution for you, as well as calculate the costs associated with it. Contact us today at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com.

Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation, Custom Aquarium Design

The Responsible Aquarium Hobbyist

The aquarium design industry occasionally comes under fire from environmentalists who think that the aquarium hobby is destructive to aquatic ecosystems. Aquarium hobbyists will strongly argue that it is their goal to help preserve the species they keep, in the interest of preserving the ecosystem and the species that exist in it. However, a large portion of responsibility falls on the people who catch the animals (know as collectors) in their natural environments and export them to retail stores for sale to the general public. A collector must follow rules set forth by the governments of the countries where the animals are collected. CITES (pronounced ‘sightees’) permits are issued for most ornamental marine animals. These permits limit the amount of each species to be collected from each region. If collectors use these permits properly, then the regulated species should have time to rebuild its population before the next round of permits are issued.

Aquarium hobbyists need to be responsible as well. It is important to realize that animals don’t come from an infinite source. If one dies in an aquarium and is replaced, it represents another animal removed from its natural environment. If hobbyists educate themselves about each animal they own, and engage in a proper aquarium maintenance routine, they can do a better job of keeping those animals healthy and alive. This will reduce the need to replace the animals in the home or office aquarium and, in turn, reduce the amount of animals removed from their natural habitats.

Building the proper aquarium, and consistent aquarium service is crucial in keeping aquatic animals alive. The animals come from such diverse environments that it would be impossible to set up one aquarium that would be suitable for all fish. The system must be tailored to the needs of the species to be kept within.

We are here to help. Contact Diamond Aquatics today at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com for more information or to schedule a consultation.

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation

Aquarium Maintenance: Biological Filtration

As you know, the health of the animals that live in your custom aquarium or fish tank relies on proper and consistent aquarium maintenance. So far we’ve reviewed mechanical filtration, and we’ve reviewed chemical filtration. Now it’s time to take a look at the third crucial piece of the puzzle: biological filtration.

                                  Example of bio-balls

                                  Example of bio-balls

Biological filtration is the most important function of an aquarium filter. Biological filtration is facilitated in a filter with a coarse medium, usually a ceramic noodle or plastic, spiked ball called a “bio-ball”. The object of this medium is to grow bacteria. That’s right, some bacteria are actually good! The bacteria actually grow on all surfaces in the aquarium. The biological filter media simply creates a larger amount of surface area for the bacteria to grow on. Your gravel bed is also a great biological filter. These bacteria eat organic waste (fish urine, feces and leftover food) in your aquarium.

The Nitrogen Cycle

More specifically, bacteria in your fish tank facilitates the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle is the process by which organic matter is converted to gas and released from the water. In the first stage of the nitrogen cycle the bacteria begin to eat the organic waste and convert it into ammonia (NH3). Ammonia lowers the pH of your aquarium and also burns the fishes’ skin and gills making it difficult for them to breathe.  It is also introduced directly into the aquarium in the form of urine by your fish.

Next, the bacteria begin to convert the ammonia into nitrite (NO2-). Nitrite is also highly toxic to fish, and both ammonia and nitrate levels should be monitored on a routine basis in order to ensure proper filter functionality. Both compounds are measured in ppm (parts per million) and both should always read  zero (0) ppm in a properly maintained aquarium.

The third stage of the nitrogen cycle consists of the bacteria converting the nitrite into nitrate (NO3-). This compound is relatively non-toxic to fish as long as it does not reach excessive levels. Also measured in ppm, nitrates should be kept under 100-150 ppm in a freshwater or marine “fish-only” (no corals or live plants) aquarium and under 10 ppm in a marine reef aquarium. This is not the final stage of the nitrogen cycle but, in an aquarium, it is where nature stops (or slows drastically) and the hobbyist must pick up the slack.

Too much weird science for you? Give Diamond Aquatics a call and we’d be happy to help you maintain your aquarium, or answer any questions you may have.

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation

Aquarium Maintenance: Chemical Filtration

A couple of posts back we talked about aquarium filtration, and how important it is for the health of the animals that live in your custom aquarium or fish tank. As a reminder, proper aquarium maintenance will not only prolong the life of your favorite aquatic pets, but also help save you money in the long run (by reducing the number of animals you will have to purchase).

A good filtration system is an important part of aquarium service. As we mentioned already, there are three main functions to most common filters:

  • Mechanical filtration
  • Chemical filtration
  • Biological filtration

Our last post covered mechanical filtration. This time we dive into chemical filtration.

Chemical filtration comes in many forms to remove many different dissolved elements from the water, but they all work in a similar fashion. Each one absorbs a harmful/unwanted element from the water, like a sponge absorbing a liquid. For example, activated carbon or charcoal, possibly the most common chemical filter medium, absorbs dissolved organic material from the water like a sponge. Dissolved organics are what lead to foul odors and cloudy water when left unchecked. You want to reduce the proliferation of them within your tank, or they can lead to larger issues including excessive algae growth and ammonia build-up.

Just as a sponge can only hold a certain amount of liquid, carbon can only hold a certain amount of dissolved organics. This medium should be replaced frequently. In most cases once per month is adequate. Some aquariums may produce excessive dissolved organics requiring more frequent carbon replacement. There are products on the market that have been manufactured to last longer than one month. These are usually carbon resins mixed with other chemical filter media and are generally more expensive than plain activated carbon.

Feel like this is a daunting task? For those who would rather not take it on, but would still love an aquarium, Diamond Aquatics provides maintenance services to fit your needs. We can answer your questions and guide you towards the right aquarium maintenance solution. Contact us at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com today!

Aquarium Filtration, Aquarium Maintenance, Custom Aquarium Design

Aquarium Maintenance: Mechanical Filtration

It’s important to remember that proper aquarium maintenance is a crucial part of your aquatic pets’ health, and will help save you money over time by reducing the number of animals you will purchase.

Just like cats and dogs need to be bathed and kept after, all aquariums require regular maintenance. This fact eludes most people who have never had an aquarium before. It’s called maintenance, and not simply cleaning, because you are not just making it look nice, you are actually removing potential harmful compounds! For some hobbyists, this aquarium maintenance process is an enjoyable, stress-relieving aspect of the hobby. For those who would rather not take on the chore, yet still want to have an aquarium, Diamond Aquatics provides maintenance services to fit the needs of your custom aquarium.

A good filtration system is an important part of aquarium service. Many people purchase inadequate filters for their first aquarium and eventually have to purchase a more advanced filter later. Avoid this expense by researching before you buy. Understanding how aquarium filters actually work will help you make the right purchase the first time and also help you fully appreciate the need to properly maintain an aquarium. There are three main functions to most common filters:

  • Mechanical filtration
  • Chemical filtration
  • Biological filtration

This article explains the mechanical filtration function.

Mechanical filtration usually appears in the form of a piece of foam or polyester floss. The sole function of this medium is to physically “catch” large particles of waste that are pulled into the filter. Rinse or replace the foam or polyester floss regularly, as this will remove a substantial amount of solid waste from the aquarium. Rinsing should generally be done every 2 to 4 weeks but, in some aquariums, may require more frequent attention.

In our next blog post, we’ll discuss chemical filtration.  For more tips and advice, Diamond Aquatics can answer your questions or guide you towards the right aquarium maintenance solution. 

Custom Aquarium Design, Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Tips

Aquarium Lighting

Lighting is a very important part of any custom aquarium system. However, each type of aquarium setup has specific lighting requirements. There are 3 common groups of setups to be considered: fish only (freshwater or marine), live-plants (freshwater only), and reef (marine only).

Regardless of the type of setup you have, it is important aquarium maintenance to replace ALL of your light bulbs every 9-12 months. As a bulb is used over long periods of time, its output spectrum deteriorates. After approximately 9-12 months, the remaining spectrum will promote unwanted and excessive algae growth.

Another important lighting fact is the need to have them on an appropriate time cycle. Every aquarium needs to have a “day” and a “night” cycle. Fish do not have eyelids so, in order to rest, they require a period of darkness in the aquarium. This cycle can be manipulated to suit your schedule but it needs to be relatively consistent.

Plants and some corals use light for energy but, make no mistake, corals are NOT plants. Corals are invertebrate animals, some of which have algae living in their outer tissue. This is called a commensal relationship. The coral protects the algae by allowing it to live inside its skin and the algae uses light to produce sugars through photosynthesis. The coral then uses those sugars for energy. Plants and alga perform different functions in light than they do in darkness, and these functions are important to their health.  Therefore it is important to provide plants and corals with an appropriate light cycle.

Most reef and live-plant hobbyists know the inhabitants of their aquariums require light as a source of energy. Most of these hobbyists are also aware that they are recommended to use 2-4 watts per gallon for a live-plant setup and 3-5 watts per gallon for a reef setup. What some of these hobbyists do NOT know is what type of lighting to use or what spectrum will be most beneficial for their specific setup.

In a reef aquarium, a high-intensity bulb, such as a metal halide bulb, will give the best coral growth rates and deepest light penetration to the lower parts of the aquarium (water filters out light intensity very quickly). The downside to these high-intensity bulbs is cost. They are expensive to purchase and draw a tremendous amount of electricity so they are expensive to operate as well. They will also generate excessive amounts of heat and may necessitate the use of a chiller to keep the aquarium at the right temperature. Chillers are also expensive to purchase and operate.

Some alternatives to metal-halide bulbs include a range of florescent bulbs:

  • Very-High-Output (VHO)
  • T5-VHO
  • Power-Compact (PC)

Yet another alternative is the use of LED bulbs although these are expensive to purchase. Most hobbyists choose the fluorescent bulbs since they are the least expensive to purchase and operate yet still yield acceptable results.

For more information on aquarium lighting, contact Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Aquarium Tips

Do Not Buy Your Aquarium Accessories Twice

Some of the most common expenses custom aquarium hobbyists face can be avoided with some simple research before picking out and purchasing an aquarium and its accessories. Establishing your specific needs or wants and then researching the requirements for your ideal aquarium BEFORE you make a purchase will help you avoid unforeseen catastrophes and unneeded expenses.

Picking the proper aquarium size and choosing the right filter equipment are integral parts of any new hobbyist’s decision to start an aquarium.

Proper aquarium maintenance is also a crucial part of your aquatic pets’ health and will help save you money over time by reducing the number of animals you will purchase.

Contact Diamond Aquatics at info@diamondaquatics.com for free copy of our full report containing money-saving tips for setting up your first aquarium.

Aquarium Preservation

"My Fish are Too Big! What Should I Do?"

In many aquarists' lives there comes a time when they have to get rid of an animal that has outgrown its custom aquarium or has become too aggressive for its tank-mates. Most often the animal is a fish, but it is not uncommon to hear of people who need to get rid of a plant or algae as well.

It is important to understand that the plants and animals in your aquarium probably did not come from the ecosystem you live in or near. If released or discarded in your local lakes, rivers or oceans, a foreign plant or animal species can become extremely destructive. Aquarium plants can compete with and overgrow indigenous plants and eliminate the indigenous population, which may have been a staple food source for a local animal. This can also lead to a change in water chemistry, which may affect fish or other animals that live in that body of water. Foreign plants can also completely clog bodies of water and eliminate habitats for animals to live in.

Introducing a non-native fish to a body of water can be devastating as well. If it is a predatory species, it may be large enough to eat an indigenous fish that may have previously been at the top of the food chain in that particular habitat. It also may be too large to be eaten by any other indigenous predators. With no natural predators in its new home, the foreign fish may eat most or all of the native species.

If you need to remove a living organism from your aquarium, please do so responsibly. Try contacting your local fish store. They may be interested in taking in unwanted plants and animals. If they cannot, try posting your plant or animal on public forums, such as aquarium related forums or Craigslist. If you need further advice or assistance with this type of aquarium service, feel free to call Diamond Aquatics.

Aquarium Preservation

The Importance of Proper Aquarium Acclimation

Many aquarium hobbyists are unaware of how their aquatic pets get to their favorite retail stores. Aquatic animals have to endure a tremendous amount of stress before they reach your custom aquarium and, because of this, must be introduced to your aquarium very carefully in order to ensure survival.

It obviously begins when the fish is caught; but there are a few stops the animals must make before they get to your local fish store (LFS). The catching process, although done as professionally as possible, will cause stress on an animal because it is being removed from its natural environment and probably assumes it is going to be eaten. I’m sure this thought would upset even the toughest of animals. It is then bagged and brought to a collection station. A collection station is a facility owned and operated by a company that exports aquatic animals from where they are collected to places all over the world. At this point the animals may be acclimated into a holding system, which will keep them alive until they are sold.

Next, a wholesale operation will purchase the animals from the collection station. Once a wholesaler has placed an order, the collection station will place all of the animals to be shipped in bags with water and oxygen. These bags will then be placed in a styrof.oam box with ice or heat packs (depending on the weather) and brought to the airport for shipping. The cargo flight is usually a long one since the fish are usually moving from one continent to another. This means the animals can be in bags for over 12 hours before they reach their destination.

While in the bags, the water is unfiltered and becomes low in oxygen and high in ammonia. Once the wholesaler has received the animals, they must be acclimated into another holding system. A wholesaler’s job is then to sell the animals to retail stores, such as your favorite LFS. For marine animals, the majority of which enter the U.S. through California, this may involve another 12-hour flight to reach the east coast of the U.S. Finally, the LFS will acclimate the animals into their display takes for sale to the general public.

To summarize the process, an animal is:

1. collected – Stressful!

2. bagged – Stressful!

3. acclimated to a holding system

4. bagged and shipped to a wholesaler (which may take 12 hours or more) – Stressful!

5. acclimated to another holding system

6. bagged (AGAIN) and shipped to a retail sore (which, also, may take over 12 hours) – Stressful!

7. acclimated (AGAIN!!) to the retail sales tanks

8. and, finally bagged one last time to be brought home by a hobbyist – Stressful!

Hopefully, this information will encourage the hobbyists to take the time to properly acclimate the animal slowly and gently into their aquarium. If you have any questions regarding proper aquarium acclimation procedures, please contact Diamond Aquatics at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com. We will be happy to show you how to ensure your animal has the best chance of survival in its new home and can provide an affordable aquarium maintenance package to ensure your tank is always healthy.