Tank Cleaners: Part 2 - Siamese Algae Eater

This post is the second in a series of posts aimed at preventing aquarists from falling victim to misconceptions about using animals (in lieu of traditional maintenance) to maintain the cleanliness of your aquarium.  In the first post, we discussed plecos. In this post, we will talk about another popular choice for managing algae: The Siamese Algae Eater.

Siamese Algae Eater (SAE)

Black Beard Algae (BBA) plagues some aquarists to the point of wanting to give up the hobby out of sheer frustration. BBA is one of the hardest alga to get rid of. It is capable of surviving nearly every aquarium safe algacide and almost nothing eats it. It also is capable of overgrowing a tank fairly quickly and is very difficult to remove manually, even from glass. While we have had some success "controlling" BBA using certain algacides or carbon supplements in some of our clients' aquariums, it usually comes back in spades as soon as any treatments are discontinued. In cases where it's presence is unacceptable, We have resorted to bleaching anything that had been exposed and needed to be reused while disposing of everything else. We've even gone so far as to quarantine the fish from the exposed aquarium to ensure that they do not spread spores through their waste or any other means.

One animal that seems to eat the algae is Crossocheilus oblongus (formerly Crossocheilus siamensis) A.K.A. the Siamese Algae Eater. There are, however, a few issues that will prevent this fish from being the solution to your problems with Black Beard Algae. The first issue is, unless your tank is under 30 gallons, you will likely need many to keep up with the algae growth and this may be a burden on your bio-load and prevent you from keeping the other fish you like.  Second, when being kept with other fish, the SAEs are known to eat the food you feed to the tank instead of the algae and will probably not eat the algae unless those other foods are withheld. They can become very aggressive during feeding and sometimes have a negative effect on the other fish in the tank. Even when this fish does eat algae, it is most likely spreading the algae spores, via feces, throughout the aquarium which will only cause the algae to grow in more places. In other words, using the Siamese Algae Eater is more of a means of control than irradication. 

From top: True SAE, False SAE, Flying Fox

From top: True SAE, False SAE, Flying Fox

Another issue is proper identification. As you can see in the comparison picture to the right, the SAE (top) has a diminished continuation of the lateral black stripe into the caudal fin (tail) however, there are two fish that look very similar to the Siamese Algae Eater and can easily be confused. The first is Garra cambodgiensis (middle) or the False SAE. Formerly Garra taeniata, this fish has a more overshot mouth and the lateral black stripe stops at the base of the caudal fin. These fish are sometimes used in foot baths in spas to remove dead skin cells from feet. The second is Epalzeorhynchus kalopterus, or the Flying Fox (bottom). Flying Foxes have a more definite continuation of the lateral black stripe into the tail. They can be very active and sometimes aggressive much like the true Siamese Algae Eater.

Finally, Siamese Algae Eaters are difficult to find. They are nearly impossible to breed in captivity so their availability is limited by collection rules and wild population sizes. Because of the similarities, many of the "imposters" are misidentified when collected and sold as true SAEs so do not trust your local fish store's labels. Make sure you know the physical differences so you can properly identify them on your own before making a purchase.

Having the right setup to achieve your aquarium goals is the best way to ensure a clean and healthy aquarium down the road and proper, ongoing, maintenance is the tried and true way to prevent catastrophes like a Black Beard Algae outbreak in your aquarium. Remember,  the aquarium service technicians at Diamond Aquatics are here to help. Call or email us to find out how we can help make your tank look its best.

Tank Cleaners: Part 1 - Plecos

Throughout the years that I’ve been in the aquarium industry, I've seen a lot of people try desperately to find animals that will keep their freshwater or marine tanks clean so that they can avoid manually scraping algae or combating one of many possible nuisance infestations. The truth is, algae problems and other nuisance infestations can rarely, if ever, be solved by animals. Human intervention is almost always the answer. This post is part of a series in which I hope to illustrate the importance of proper maintenance and water care by pointing out the shortcomings of the most common animals people use to attempt to "solve" aquarium problems.


Hypostomus plecostomus (Common Pleco)

Hypostomus plecostomus (Common Pleco)

Algae is a problem that all aquarists have to deal with it at some point. Keeping an aquarium looking clean and free of algae is most often an ongoing battle. In freshwater aquariums, "Plecos" (short for plecostomus and used to refer to fish of the family Loricariidae) are one of the most common fish purchased to aid in algae cleanup. The reality is, unless you have an aquarium larger than 75 gallons and only one Pleco, the Plecos will end up feasting mainly on the meat based foods that you feed your other fish. This is because there is rarely enough algae growth in an aquarium to sustain a Pleco's appetite. Further, a high-protein diet based primarily on meaty foods can be unhealthy for animals who have a digestive system intended to process mostly plant matter.

On the other hand, even if you do have a large tank and enough algae, Plecos are not capable of scraping the algae completely away from any surface in the tank, including the glass, so you will always be left with a thin, but noticeable, coating of algae. This seemingly faulty cleaning ability might be a genetic development to prevent the fish from completely eliminating their own food sources. When a little is left behind, the algae will grow back, providing a sustainable food source for the algae eaters. However, if the algae were completely scraped away, it might not grow back, forcing the algae eaters to find a new source of food.

This does not mean you should never buy a Pleco though. Some Plecos are truly stunning and there are literally hundreds of species of Plecos for aquarists to purchase. Just remember that you must provide them with a vegetable-based food, especially in smaller tanks with little algae growth. It is also important to know that some of the most common species of Plecos can reach lengths of 24" or more, and they are very powerful swimmers capable of knocking over decorations and stirring up your substrate with the flick of a tail. Finally, if you have a planted tank and are searching for algae eaters, only purchase Plecos if you are familiar with the species and its dietary requirements. Otherwise you may end up with a fish that will eat your plants.

Hypancistrus zebra (Zebra Pleco)

Hypancistrus zebra (Zebra Pleco)

If you do want a Pleco that will aid in algae removal, the Bushy Nosed (Bristle Nosed) Plecos from the genus Ancistrus seem to do the best job and most tend to stay pretty small. Just remember that the fish will not solve your algae problems. Proper maintenance of the aquarium and its water parameters are the only solution. My advice is to purchase Plecos because you like the way they look, not to keep your tank clean, and to research that particular species' food requirements. Most Plecos are omnivorous but require a diet high in vegetation. Some prefer soft vegetation, while others like to rasp on wood. There is also at least one species, the coveted Zebra Pleco, which lives primarily on meaty foods.

Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle

A good aquarium filter will keep the water in the tank clean from some of the most toxic organic pollutants but it does not, however, keep the water as clean as it is in the rivers, lakes and oceans where your fish come from. This is because the natural process that breaks down organic matter, called the nitrogen cycle, is incomplete in most aquarium environments. Therefor, as organic waste from fish (feces, urine, etc.) and leftover food builds up in an aquarium over time, the water quality deteriorates. There seems to be a varying degree of comprehension about this among aquarium hobbyists so here is an explanation of that deterioration.

There are 3 toxins created by the breakdown of organic matter (fish waste, leftover food, etc.) in your aquarium:

1. Ammonia (also created by fish directly),

2. Nitrite, and

3. Nitrate.

In addition to those toxins, it is important to consider 2 other factors, Oxygen content and pH level(acidity). When organic matter falls to the bottom of the aquarium or gets caught in the filter, it is bacteria that do most of the work to clean it up. The bacteria eats the waste. One type of bacteria eats the organic waste and creates its own waste in the form of Ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic and lethal to fish and invertebrates. Then a second type of bacteria, most commonly Nitrosomonas,  begins eating the Ammonia and creates Nitrite as waste. Nitrite is also highly toxic and lethal to fish. A third type of bacteria, Nitrobacter, eats Nitrite and leaves Nitrate as waste.

In under-filtered aquariums or if excessive amounts of organic matter are quickly added to the tank (i.e., adding too many fish at once or overfeeding), Ammonia can increase quickly and cause the bacteria to bloom explosively. It may even cause cloudiness in the water. This can, in turn, use a tremendous amount of Oxygen. When this happens, you will sometimes see the fish at the surface of the tank gasping for air. Ammonia also directly burns the gills and skin of the fish causing them stress which can lead to illness. A similar result will happen if there is a Nitrite spike. When the Ammonia spikes, the decrease in Oxygen, combined with the acidic nature of Ammonia, will drop the pH to unacceptable levels. An interesting thing happens here though because Ammonia is less toxic to fish in water with a low pH. The problem with accepting this as a stable environment for fish to live in is that the Ammonia gets into the bloodstream of the animals in the aquarium. Then, when a water change is done, the pH of the aquarium water is increased back to the appropriate level, making the Ammonia toxic again. The Ammonia in a fish's bloodstream will then burn the fish from the inside causing internal damage.

Lastly, Nitrate presents another issue. It is less toxic than Ammonia or Nitrite but, in high levels, can become toxic to fish. Under normal operating conditions, the bacteria will keep converting Ammonia to Nitrite and Nitrite to Nitrate, eliminating the most lethal of the 3 toxins. However, the bacteria that breaks down Nitrate, turning it into gas to be expelled into the atmosphere, is extremely difficult to grow in an aquarium because it requires an oxygen free environment. This means that the Nitrate slowly builds up, over time, to levels that can stress and even kill fish. The only method for managing Nitrate build-up in marine, fish-only (in other words, not reef) aquariums is dilution. In other words, frequent water changes.

Water changes and other regular maintenance can be tedious and time consuming but we are here to help. Call Diamond Aquatics at (973) 356-4434 or email us at info@diamondaquatics.com and we will set up a regular maintenance schedule tailored for your aquarium.

Aquarium Tips, Custom Aquarium Design

Glass or Acrylic for Your Custom Aquarium?

Are you trying to decide between a glass or acrylic custom aquarium? We’d like to share some information about both types.

Glass Aquariums

  • If the tank is under 100 gallons, glass can be less expensive than acrylic. Keep in mind that when you exceed this size, the cost will shoot up. This is due to the thickness of glass and possible freight/handling fees.
  • Because glass is a lot heavier than acrylic (7 times heavier!), installation and subsequent moving can be a lot more difficult.
  • Glass can break. A fallen rock inside the tank or a child banging it with something hard could cause some glass to break.
  • Glass has a slight tint to it (a faint green hue), but this color does not yellow like clear acrylic can after time.

Acrylic Aquariums

  • Acrylic is completely clear and has no color, however it is more easily scratched. Aquarium maintenance must be performed very carefully, especially when scrubbing algae.
  • Acrylic is a lot stronger than glass and more flexible. It also has no seams, and is more easily drilled into.
  • Acrylic retains temperature better as an insulator, which can be good for warm water tropical aquaria. However, it could be a problem for more delicate reef life.

Both glass and acrylic are equally capable materials with which to build your custom aquarium. Still undecided? Call Diamond Aquatics at 973-356-4434 and we will be happy to give you a consultation on the right choice for your fish tank!

Aquarium Maintenance

Aquarium Maintenance in NY, and NJ

Diamond Aquatics serves many happy custom aquarium clients in New York, and New Jersey. We encourage proper aquarium maintenance to ensure that you can enjoy your tank and the animals within, for the long-term.

When major problems occur in an aquarium, it can take months of recovery before the underwater ecosystem is back to normal. We provide regular aquarium maintenance that is essential to the health of your aquarium and the animals. 

Our scheduled aquarium maintenance service includes:

• a 20-30% water change

• substrate “hydro-cleaning”

• filter maintenance

• basic water testing

All of these procedures help reduce nitrate and phosphate build-up which have been proven to foster excessive growth of problematic algae inside the tank.

Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation, Custom Aquarium Design

Preserving the Species

Environmentalists often think that keeping a decorative aquarium is destructive to aquatic ecosystems. Dedicated 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.

Collectors (people who catch the animals) are held responsible for a large part of preservation; they catch the animals in their natural environments and export them to stores for sale to the public. Collectors must follow rules set forth by the governments of the countries where the animals are collected by obtaining certain permits issued for most marine animals. These permits limit the amount of each species to be collected from each region. If used properly, the permits regulate species so that they can rebuild their population before the next round of permits are issued.

Aquaculture, the captive breeding of ornamental aquarium animals, is the ideal solution to species preservation. If more species were bred in captivity, less would need to be removed from their natural habitats. Therefor, the environmental impact would be far less. The aquarium hobby industry has made great strides toward this goal in the last fifteen years. Most freshwater fish and plant species are already being bred in captivity along with an increasing number of marine fish and invertebrates.

Let's not forget that the hobbyist must be responsible as well. Animals do not come from an infinite source. If one dies in an aquarium and is replaced, it may represent another animal removed from its natural environment. However, 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. Hobbyists should also look to purchase captive bred animals, instead of wild caught animals, for their aquariums. This will also reduce the demand for animals removed from natural environments and increase the demand for captive bred animals. As demand for captive bred animals increases, so will captive breeding. As breeding facilities get larger, the prices for captive bred animals will decrease and, eventually, the price for captive bred animals should be less than that of wild caught animals.

Building the proper aquarium 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. Consistent maintenance is also imperative. Aquariums are not perfect systems. Without routine maintenance, toxins build up to intolerable levels and cause stress to your aquatic pets. This stress can cause illness and even death. If you need help designing the right custom aquarium or maintaining an existing one, send a message to us at info@diamondaquatics.com.

Custom Aquarium Design

Spotlight on a Large Fish Only with Live Rock Aquarium

At a whopping 900-gallons, this Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR) custom aquarium in New Jersey is definitely the center of attention in the great room of this home. It is also a fine example of Diamond Aquatics' systems design expertise.

Included in the filter room are a 125-gallon refugium, 100-gallon primary sump, and a 300-gallon secondary sump. Two main pumps alternate day and night to create low flow during the night and high flow during the day. The tank was lifted into place with a pallet jack and foam blocks. Blocks were added progressively until the tank was above the stand, and then the tank was rolled into place using pipes as rollers.

Looking for a similar, custom fish tank installation for your home or business? Or perhaps another option which will fit perfectly in your space? Diamond Aquatics will provide you with a free consultation. 

Aquarium Maintenance

Aquarium Maintenance: Before and After

The maintenance staff at Diamond Aquatics pride themselves on the quality of their work. Here are some before and after pictures that showcase the difference a knowledgeable aquarist can make on your tank.

Before Aquarium Maintenance with Diamond Aquatics


After Aquarium Maintenance with Diamond Aquatics


For help maintaining your home or office aquarium, contact us today at 973-356-4434 or info@diamondaquatics.com.

Custom Aquarium Design

Spotlight on a Recessed Nook Aquarium

This standard 120-gallon, reef-ready custom aquarium was squeezed into a custom-built area so it would be viewable from three sides. Because the aquarium is located in the recreational area of the home, the owners were concerned about noise from the aquarium filter system interfering with their surround sound system. For this reason, Diamond Aquatics utilized a small area in the garage space directly behind the aquarium to place the filter system instead of putting it inside the cabinet.

Other benefits of placing the filter system remotely include increased storage space under the tank for accessories such as test kits, food, nets and salt. In addition, the cool air in the garage helps keep the aquarium cool during the winter months thus preventing the chiller from running and saving electricity (and money!). In the summer, the hot exhaust air from the chiller does not blow into the living space which would then impose greater demand on the home climate control system.

Looking for a similar, custom fish tank setup for your home or business? Diamond Aquatics will provide you with a free consultation. 

Custom Aquarium Design, Aquarium Tips, Aquarium Preservation

How to Keep Your Custom Aquarium Cool

No matter what part of the country you live in, you’ve probably been feeling those high summer temps lately.  As a human, you are able to hop into the pool, ocean, or lake and then scoot into an air conditioned space to keep cool. But how can your pets cope, especially your aquatic ones?

When hot weather strikes, it can be problematic to keep the water comfortable for the fish in your custom aquarium. A rise in water temperature requires more oxygen for the fish, since their own metabolism also rises. This can directly affect the overall health of your fish.  How can it be remedied?

We recommend installing a chiller on your aquarium; usually a must-have for reef aquariums. A chiller will lower temperature by removing heat from the water, as opposed to creating cold. You set the temperature and can control it with a thermostat.

There are two chiller styles to consider: in-line or drop-in. An in-line chiller uses internal heat exchange, relying on water pumps to transport water to the heat exchange and carry it back to the main system already cooled. A drop-in chiller has an external heat exchange. A probe is put into the sump area of the filter and contacts the aquarium water, with a return pump which ensures temp control.

Which chiller is right for you? Give Diamond Aquatics a call at 973-356-4434 and we’d be happy to help you figure it out. Remember, just because your fish are already swimming around in the water, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to keep cool too!

Aquarium Tips, Custom Aquarium Design, General Information

Don't Pay More than You Have to for Your Custom Aquarium

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 hobbyists 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.

We have written the perfect guide to help you make the your decisions. Receive our complimentary guide for choosing the right aquarium setup the first time by emailing info@diamondaquatics.com.

Aquarium Maintenance, Custom Aquarium Design, General Information

Seahorses in Your Custom Aquarium

Seahorses are beautiful and intriguing creatures. Can you imagine keeping them in your custom aquarium?

As long as you have the proper saltwater aquarium setup, it is possible…but, very difficult. Aquarium maintenance for seahorses requires a lot more attention than other fish and marine life. These creatures are a favorite of Diamond Aquatics owner, Nick Diamond, so we’re sharing some fun facts with you. Read on…



  1. Seahorses are actually fish! They are predatory however they are poor swimmers. They are the slowest moving marine fish. Some only move 5 feet per hour.
  2. Even though seahorses are slow swimmers, these predators have one of the fastest strikes in the ocean.
  3. Did you know male seahorses are the ones who get pregnant? It’s true; a female seahorse deposits her eggs into the male’s pouch for fertilization by his sperm.
  4. Less than 1% of a seahorse’s eggs will survive to develop into maturity, that’s why a male seahorse could give birth to as many as 2,000 babies at a time.
  5. Seahorses can change color when they are stressed out; their skin changes color since they do not have scales.
  6. Seahorses can only curl their tails frontwards, not backwards. Sometimes they wrap it around things when they are sleeping so that they do not float away.

Keeping seahorses is a lot of work, however, we can help you find the best solution for your custom aquarium! Contact us today for more information.

Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation, Aquarium Tips

Thinking About Moving An Aquarium or Fish Tank?

Moving for any individual can be stressful.  Whether it is a move to a new apartment, or a move to a new home, proper planning and preparation will ensure that it goes smoothly.  The same goes for custom fish tank or aquarium moving: your aquatics residents will be stressed as well!

The size of your tank and distance of the move will determine the difficulty, and how it will affect your fish.  There are many things to think about before attempting this yourself. The experts at Diamond Aquatics can provide you with professional, affordable aquarium moving services in NY, NJ, and CT if you are looking for help.

Before you start planning, consider the following:

  1. Moving needs to happen as quickly as possible. The habitat in which your fish live must be duplicated as much as it can in a temporary enclosure.  Using water from the custom fish tank will help. The quicker the aquarium moving occurs, the faster the balance in the new setup adjusts for the fish to move right back in.
  2. It’s difficult to physically move a fish tank! They are fragile and heavy at the same time. If the tank is large, it needs to be securely carried and handled, and kept as level as possible so that the panels stay together.
  3. Aquarium moving can be messy. Most, if not all of the water needs to be drained, and then put back in once moved. Water is fluid, so all the movement of it can cause spills and splashes everywhere, if not done properly.

Even when it is simply from one room to another, moving an aquarium can be a daunting task. With time being a factor in the health of the aquarium inhabitants, experience is critical in making sure everything is done as quickly as possible. Whether you are temporarily shifting furniture or moving to a new residence or office in the New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut areas, contact Diamond Aquatics to help move your aquarium to it’s new location safely.

Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation, Aquarium Tips

Aquarium Tips: Feeding Your Fish

Let’s take a few minutes to review a few key things to remember about the diets and feeding of your custom aquarium fish.

  1. What if you had to eat one certain kind of food every single day? It’s important to remember that our animal friends enjoy variety as well. Feeding flake food only, will not prolong the life of your aquarium fish. Try giving them a treat once in a while of freeze dried, frozen, or fresh food.  Do some research on your fish and the type of food that they will do best with in your custom aquarium. You can use this list for reference.
  2. Be careful when feeding your fish. Fish, in fact, could go several days without food. And, more aquarium fish often die from overfeeding, rather than underfeeding. The rule is: make sure they eat everything you feed them. Watch to see if they can eat all their food in about 30 seconds. If this can happen, it is alright to feed them again at some point later in the day.
  3. You may have returned from visiting family or vacation, but if you will be traveling away from your home or business which contains a custom fish tank again, make sure that the feeding of your animals is taken care of. There are several options for this. The first is hiring a pet sitter. Make sure that they know not to overfeed the fish. One idea is to portion out your pet’s meals into baggies, and have them come to feed every 2-3 days. Another option is to use a mechanical feeding device. This is a battery or electric powered device which will release food into your tank on a scheduled basis with a timer. A third option is to use a feeding block. It releases food slowly for continual feeding.

Need help with fish and aquarium maintenance? Call Diamond Aquatics.  We will be happy to help.

Custom Aquarium Design, Aquarium Tips

Ideas About Custom Aquarium Lighting

Sunlight is a big asset to any home or office environment space, so why not use natural daylight to light your custom aquarium? After all, the sun is good enough to support aquatic life in oceans and reefs, right?  Well, your custom fish tank is a very different environment than in the wild, so consider your lighting carefully. Natural daylight can only work if you have an excellent cooling system, and don’t care to view your display at night (which is no fun)! Because chillers for your tank can get expensive, and looking at a tank all lit up in the dark is pretty darn cool, we recommend you always turn to artificial lighting for your custom aquarium.

There are a few types of lighting that you can consider:

  • Fluorescent Light
  • Metal Halide (MH) and Hydrargyrum Quartz Iodide (HQI) Lighting
  • LED Lights

The most commonly used lighting in aquarium design is fluorescent. They are the most cost-effective and release lower levels of heat. But any of the three options could be the right kind for your tank.  Whatever you choose, set your lights on a timer. You can set these up to come on at night, or even mimic phases of the moon … just make sure to keep it consistent on a daily basis.

Lighting is very important for your custom aquarium. Treat it as an investment.  We can help you choose the right kind. Call Diamond Aquatics today to get started!

Aquarium Maintenance, Aquarium Preservation, Aquarium Tips

Custom Aquarium Gravel: For Beauty and Balance

Gravel is primarily used to make your custom aquarium more beautiful, but can also change the pH balance of the water by introducing chemicals, minerals or particles into the environment that your fish live in. A more technical term for gravel, or the substance at the bottom of your custom fish tank, is called a substrate. This substance can both benefit or harm fish and other aquatic dwellers in the tank, so it must be chosen carefully because it creates a natural environment for fish and other tank mates.

Proper aquarium maintenance is crucial, and this can include cleaning the gravel in your tank. Remember this tip: removing old gravel from an aquarium and replacing it with new gravel can be catastrophic if done too quickly. When you remove the old gravel you are also removing a tremendous amount of good bacteria, which can upset the biological filter balance in your aquarium. If you choose to change your gravel, remove the old gravel slowly, over the course of a few days or even weeks.

Think this may be too difficult? We are here to help, and can provide you with effective and affordable aquarium maintenance services. Give Diamond Aquatics a call today with your questions, or to set up a free in-home aquarium maintenance consultation in any New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania areas.

Custom Aquarium Design

Freshwater Fish-Only Aquarium Setup

Freshwater fish in a custom aquarium are generally less expensive than marine fish, making them the most common fish for hobbyists to start with. Many species of freshwater fish stay smaller than marine fish so smaller aquaria can be used as well. Freshwater aquariums can be set up in two ways, with live plants or without them. We will refer to an aquarium without live plants as a freshwater “fish-only” aquarium setup.

A freshwater fish-only setup will have four major components;

  • a filter
  • a heater/thermometer
  • gravel/decorations
  • a light

The filter should be chosen based on the size of the tank. The “bigger is better” rule applies here. It is not possible to over-filter a freshwater fish-only aquarium so choose the biggest filter you can afford or that will fit on your aquarium.

The heater should be sized by the wattage of the heater versus the water volume of the tank. You will need 3-5 watts of heat for every gallon of water. Most new heaters have temperature settings on them but these are not always precise. You should always have a separate thermometer to measure the aquarium temperature. A submersible glass thermometer will be more accurate than an external stick-on thermometer.

The gravel and décor can be anything you think looks attractive. Keep in mind that most fish require some type of shelter in order to feel safe and look their best so make sure to provide plenty of hiding places for your pets.

The light is of little significance in a fish-only aquarium. It is merely for displaying your fish and does not need to provide any energy for plant growth. Incandescent lights, which are less expensive than fluorescent lights, will be fine for this application although fluorescent lights tend to have a more attractive output spectrum. The light should never be left on for more than 10 hours per day. Fish have no eyelids therefore they cannot sleep well with the light on and will become stressed and possibly sick without a resting period. Since algae uses light to grow, you will also have increased algae growth if you leave the light on too long. Old light bulbs promote excessive algae growth as well. As they get older the output spectrum degrades and becomes more usable by algae for energy. Replacing bulbs yearly will keep this from happening.

Got questions? Contact the aquariums experts at Diamond Aquatics and we will be happy to help. Call 973-356-4434 today!

Aquarium Maintenance

Marine Aquarium Maintenance

Maintaining a marine custom aquarium is a science and having the right equipment is essential to the task of aquarium maintenance. This is the reason for a majority of the failures that occur for hobbyists attempting their first marine setup. Marine fish are generally more sensitive to change than freshwater fish and can be quite expensive. The proper equipment may be more expensive as well but you can consider the expense a means of protecting your investment in the animals. Marine aquariums can be set up in two ways: with live corals or without them. An aquarium with live corals is referred to as a reef aquarium and without is called a marine “fish-only” setup.

We’ll go into more detail over the next few posts about fish-only marine aquarium setups and reef aquarium setups, so stay tuned.  In the mean time, if you have any questions about your aquarium or how to best maintain it, contact us at 973-356-4434. Diamond Aquatics is here to help you design and construct the perfect aquarium for your needs.

Aquarium Tips, Custom Aquarium Design

Live Plants in Your Freshwater Aquarium

Since freshwater fish are generally less expensive than marine fish, you might consider spending some of your budget on live plants. Keeping live plants in your freshwater custom aquarium will require proper preparation.

Your aquarium filter is less important if your aquarium has live plants because the plants will do some of the filtering for you. In order for plants to thrive they need three major elements:

  • light,
  • fertilizer, and
  • carbon dioxide (CO2)

The lighting is important because plants need energy from light to create sugars, which they will use to grow. Aquarium light output is measured in degrees Kelvin (ºK). Most bulbs are between 4,500ºK and 20,000ºK. As the Kelvin rating moves from 4,500 to 20,000, the light output changes from a yellow color to a blue color.  At about 10,000ºK appears very white. The lower Kelvin bulbs are ideal for plant growth. It is common for people to use a mixture of 4,500ºK and 6,500ºK to provide the optimum growth spectrum for the plants, as well as a slightly whiter spectrum for a more appealing look.

Another concern is the wattage of the lighting. The wattage translates to energy and the plants will grow more quickly and colorfully if there is more power available. You should have 2-4 watts of light per gallon of aquarium volume for live plants to thrive. To address this issue you will be faced with a decision about the format of the lighting to be used.

Standard fluorescent is the least expensive but is the weakest format. Next are Power Compact (PC), T/5 and Very High Output (VHO) lighting. In my opinion, these three lighting formats will give you roughly the same result and only differ in heat output and mounting format. PC and T/5 lighting seem to be common due to their availability in prefabricated enclosures and the actual bulb sizes. The last option is Metal Halide lighting, which is extremely powerful but also expensive to purchase and operate. They also produce extreme heat and can easily overheat the aquarium. For this reason, Metal Halide lighting is not a popular choice for aquariums with live plants.

Once you have considered the proper lighting for your plants, you must also consider proper fertilization. Although the leaves of a plant take in light and use it to create sugars for energy, the roots also need to draw in nutrients from the gravel and a good fertilized substrate will provide those nutrients. If this issue is considered in the design stages of your aquarium project, you will save yourself considerable time and energy later. Liquid fertilizers can be added to the aquarium on a routine basis but if you setup the aquarium with a fertilized substrate you can avoid having to use several different liquids.

Plants need to breathe as well as animals, but they do it differently than animals do. First, plants breathe opposite compared to animals. Instead of taking in oxygen (O2) and producing CO2, they take in CO2 and produce O2 during the day and then the process reverses at night when there is no light. Second, plants cannot pull air into their bodies, since they do not have lungs. They can only absorb what is touching the physical structure of the plant. This means it is crucial to make sure there is enough dissolved CO2 in the water for your plants.

CO2 can be introduced into an aquarium in a number of ways. One way is to use a liquid supplement, but the most effective way is to use a CO2 regulator system. This type of system consists of a CO2 gas cylinder, a regulator valve, a diffuser to mix the CO2 with the water, and a pH controller to turn the system on or off depending on the pH level of the aquarium. The aquarium pH will lower as the CO2 level increases so it is wise to use a pH controller to monitor and shut off the CO2 system before the pH level gets too low.

Don’t forget about maintenance when it comes to keeping a freshwater aquarium with live plants. If you feel that upkeep of your tank is a daunting task, we provide scheduled aquarium maintenance services appropriate for your setup. Keeping things clean and fresh is essential to the health of your aquarium and the animals within it.

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.