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Freshwater aquariums for dummies


Freshwater
Aquariums
FOR

DUMmIES
2ND



EDITION

by Maddy Hargrove and Mic Hargrove



Freshwater
Aquariums
FOR

DUMmIES

2ND



EDITION

by Maddy Hargrove and Mic Hargrove


Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies,® 2nd Edition
Published by
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St.
Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
www.wiley.com

Copyright © 2006 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana
Published simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2006927727
ISBN-13: 978-0-470-05103-0
ISBN-10: 0-470-05103-5
Manufactured in the United States of America
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About the Authors
Maddy and Mic Hargrove are both contributing writers for many aquatic
magazines, including Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Aquarium Fish magazine,
and are also the authors of several aquarium books. They have both been in
the writing industry for over 30 years.
Maddy’s interest in fish began when she was five years old. She often dreamed
of keeping fish at home as she watched the local fishermen bring in their daily
catch in her hometown. She began keeping aquariums at age seven and began
breeding fish at age ten. She built her aquarium collection by selling and trading her newborn fry to local aquarium stores in exchange for aquariums and
equipment as she was growing up.
Her passion for aquarium fish continued on after she finished her college
degree in journalism and began writing aquarium-keeping articles for print
and online aquatic magazines. Eventually, she wrote several aquarium
columns and began writing fishkeeping books to help other hobbyists enjoy
keeping aquariums at home as much as she did. Her love of fish has also
appeared in her greeting cards, cartoons, and other artwork.
Mic has kept aquarium fish for almost 30 years. He was one of the first sailors
to develop a tank system that could keep aquarium fish alive onboard Navy
vessels. His love of fish began when he saw many different species, aquatic
traditions, and other hobbyists while on his worldwide military travels.
Both authors enjoy breeding fish, traveling, scuba diving, cooking and creating exciting new recipes, collecting old records, and computer games.

Dedication
This book is dedicated to the memory of Maddy’s father who taught her
the true beauty of the natural world in which we live. Thanks, Dad, wherever
you are.

Authors’ Acknowledgments
We would like to thank our editor Corbin for dedicating himself to making
this book great. We would also like to thank Claudette for her moral support
when it was needed most. And we would also like to thank our two dogs who
persistently reminded us that we needed to stop playing with fish and go out
for a good brisk walk now and then.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration
form located at www.dummies.com/register/.
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and
Media Development
Project Editor: Corbin Collins
Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis
Copy Editor: Corbin Collins
Technical Editor: Carol Sindelar

Composition Services
Project Coordinator: Patrick Redmond
Layout and Graphics: Andrea Dahl,
Joyce Haughey, Stephanie D. Jumper,
Clint Lahnen, Lynsey Osborn,
Alicia B. South, Erin Zeltner

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Special Art: Color photos courtesy of
Aaron Alcantar

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor:
Carmen Krikorian

Proofreaders: David Faust, John Greenough,
Leeann Harney, Techbooks

Editorial Assistants: Erin Calligan, David Lutton

Indexer: Techbooks

Cover Photos: Maximilian Weinzierl / Alamy
Cartoons: Rich Tennant
(www.the5thwave.com)

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies
Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies
Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies
Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies
Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Executive Publisher, Consumer Dummies, Lifestyles,
Pets, Education
Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel
Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel
Publishing for Technology Dummies
Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User
Composition Services
Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services
Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Contents at a Glance
Introduction .................................................................1
Part I: Aquarium Basics ................................................5
Chapter 1: Tanks for the Memories..................................................................................7
Chapter 2: The Practice of Aquarium Keeping .............................................................15
Chapter 3: Finding a Good Location ..............................................................................23
Chapter 4: The Tank and Stand ......................................................................................29
Chapter 5: What to Put and What Not to Put in Your Tank.........................................45
Chapter 6: Equipment and Other Technical Stuff ........................................................59

Part II: Fish and How to Care for Them.........................79
Chapter 7: Fish Anatomy .................................................................................................81
Chapter 8: Finding Your Species ....................................................................................95
Chapter 9: Purchasing Your Fish ..................................................................................125
Chapter 10: Diet and Nutrition for Your Wet Pets ......................................................137
Chapter 11: Diseases and Treatments .........................................................................149

Part III: Water, Chemicals, and Plants .......................169
Chapter 12: All Water Is Not Created Equal ................................................................171
Chapter 13: Those Crazy Chemicals ............................................................................179
Chapter 14: The Nitrogen Cycleand Water Testing ....................................................187
Chapter 15: Putting It All Together...............................................................................197
Chapter 16: Live Plants for Freshwater Aquariums ...................................................205
Chapter 17: Choosing Plant Species for Your Tank....................................................217
Chapter 18: What to Do if Trouble Strikes ..................................................................231

Part IV: Breeding and Other Fun Stuff........................239
Chapter 19: The Breeding Room ..................................................................................241
Chapter 20: Let’s Spawn!................................................................................................253
Chapter 21: Recording Data and Photographing Fish ...............................................267
Chapter 22: Competing in Fish Shows .........................................................................281
Chapter 23: For the Advanced Aquarium Hobbyist...................................................293


Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................299
Chapter 24: Ten Cool Aquarium Gadgets ....................................................................301
Chapter 25: Ten Ways to Kill Your Fish Without Even Trying...................................305
Chapter 26: Ten Scientific Fish Laws ...........................................................................309
Chapter 27: Ten Aquatic New Year’s Resolutions ......................................................313

Appendix: Tank Figures and Facts..............................315
Index .......................................................................323


Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................1
Why a Book for Dummies? ..............................................................................1
What We Assume About You ..........................................................................2
How to Use This Book .....................................................................................2
How This Book Is Organized...........................................................................2
Part I: Aquarium Basics .........................................................................2
Part II: Fish and How to Care for Them ...............................................3
Part III: Water, Chemicals, and Plants .................................................3
Part IV: Breeding and Other Fun Stuff..................................................3
Part V: The Part of Tens.........................................................................3
Icons Used in This Book..................................................................................4
Where to Go from Here....................................................................................4

Part I: Aquarium Basics.................................................5
Chapter 1: Tanks for the Memories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Seeing the Big Aquarium Picture....................................................................8
Where do I put my tank?........................................................................8
What type of tank and stand should I buy? ........................................9
What do I put inside my aquarium? .....................................................9
What does all this aquarium equipment do? ....................................10
Caring for Your New Aquatic Pets................................................................10
Why are so many fish so different? ....................................................10
What type of fish is best for me? ........................................................11
What should I look for when buying fish?.........................................11
What should I feed my fish? ................................................................11
What if my fish get sick? ......................................................................12
Understanding Water, Chemicals, and Live Plants ....................................12
Expanding Your Aquarium Hobby ...............................................................13
Can I breed my fish?.............................................................................13
How do I keep track of all my fish? ....................................................13
How do fish shows work?....................................................................13
Is there another type of aquarium system? ......................................13


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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Chapter 2: The Practice of Aquarium Keeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
The Benefits of an Aquarium ........................................................................16
What Kind of Aquarium Do You Want?........................................................17
Freshwater systems .............................................................................18
Marine systems.....................................................................................20
Brackish systems..................................................................................20
Organization Is the Key to Success..............................................................21

Chapter 3: Finding a Good Location . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Room Temperature and Its Effects ..............................................................23
Wicked windows...................................................................................24
Deadly doors.........................................................................................25
High Traffic Areas and Children (Spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R) .............................25
Water Sources.................................................................................................26
Checking the source.............................................................................27
Using a Python......................................................................................27
Other Considerations ....................................................................................28
Furniture and space .............................................................................28
Electrical................................................................................................28
Cleaning .................................................................................................28

Chapter 4: The Tank and Stand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Before You Buy a Tank...................................................................................29
Water is heavy.......................................................................................30
Watching the tendency to overspend................................................30
Checking out starter kits .....................................................................31
Finding free space ................................................................................32
Taking people into consideration.......................................................33
Deciding where to buy .........................................................................33
What Aquariums Are Made Of......................................................................34
Glass aquariums ...................................................................................35
Acrylic aquariums ................................................................................36
Plastic aquariums.................................................................................37
Different and Unusual Aquarium Styles ......................................................38
Portrait aquariums ...............................................................................38
In-wall tanks ..........................................................................................38
Furniture aquariums ............................................................................39
Tower aquariums..................................................................................39
Indoor pond barrels .............................................................................40
Choosing the Right Tank ...............................................................................40
Tank size ................................................................................................40
Tank shape ............................................................................................41
Carrying capacity .................................................................................41


Table of Contents
Choosing the Right Stand..............................................................................41
Wooden cabinet stands .......................................................................42
Angle and wrought iron stands...........................................................42
Do-it-yourself stands ............................................................................42
Material-based stands..........................................................................43
Mixed-media stands .............................................................................43
Bow-front stands ..................................................................................43
Placing the Stand Correctly ..........................................................................43
Checking floors and walls ...................................................................44
Looking for power ................................................................................44
Moving an Aquarium .....................................................................................44

Chapter 5: What to Put and What Not to Put in Your Tank . . . . . . . . . .45
Taking Clues from Your Fish’s Natural Environment .................................46
All About Substrates ......................................................................................47
Gravel.....................................................................................................47
Substrates and pH ................................................................................47
Substrates to avoid ..............................................................................48
Gravel size and the perils of sand ......................................................49
Adding substrate to your system.......................................................50
Rocks, Wood, and Artificial Plants ...............................................................50
Rocks for freshwater tanks .................................................................50
Wood for a freshwater tank.................................................................51
Safely sealing wood ..............................................................................52
Plastic plants.........................................................................................52
Other Aquarium Decorations ......................................................................54
Unsafe decorations can cause problems ..........................................54
Plastic divers and other oddities .......................................................54
Aquascaping Tips and Tricks .......................................................................56

Chapter 6: Equipment and Other Technical Stuff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59
Taking the Mystery out of Filters .................................................................60
Mechanical filtration ............................................................................60
Biological filtration...............................................................................61
Chemical filtration................................................................................62
Sifting Through Filtration Systems ..............................................................62
Undergravel filters................................................................................62
Sponge filters ........................................................................................63
Corner filters (submersible filters) ....................................................64
Power filters ..........................................................................................64
Powerheads...........................................................................................65
Canister filters ......................................................................................66
Fluidized bed filters .............................................................................66
Diatom filters ........................................................................................67

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Wet/dry filters .......................................................................................67
Natural filtration with plants ..............................................................68
Gauging Heaters and Thermometers...........................................................68
Submersible heaters ............................................................................69
Non-submersible heaters ....................................................................69
How to heat your aquarium ................................................................69
Making Bubbles with Airstones and Pumps ...............................................70
Air pumps ..............................................................................................71
Airstones and circulation ....................................................................72
Connecting Tubing, Valves, and Tees ..........................................................73
Air-line tubing .......................................................................................73
Gang valves and tees ...........................................................................74
Creating the Best Lighting.............................................................................74
Looking at bulb types ..........................................................................75
Making a hood choice..........................................................................76

Part II: Fish and How to Care for Them .........................79
Chapter 7: Fish Anatomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81
What Really Makes a Fish Go? ......................................................................82
The dorsal fin........................................................................................82
The caudal fin .......................................................................................83
The anal fin............................................................................................83
The pectoral fins ..................................................................................83
The pelvic fins.......................................................................................84
The adipose fin .....................................................................................84
Swimming movement...........................................................................84
Respiration......................................................................................................85
The gill method.....................................................................................85
The labyrinth organ method...............................................................86
The Senses ......................................................................................................87
Sight .......................................................................................................87
Hearing...................................................................................................89
Smell.......................................................................................................89
Taste.......................................................................................................89
Feeling....................................................................................................89
Osmosis and the salt to water ratio.............................................................90
Fish that don’t drink water..................................................................90
Fish that need to drink water..............................................................91
Recognizing Traits to Identify Fish ..............................................................91
Body shape............................................................................................91
Taxonomy ..............................................................................................92
The swim bladder.................................................................................93
Color and its purpose ..........................................................................94


Table of Contents
Chapter 8: Finding Your Species . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95
Freshwater Tropical Fish and Invertebrates ..............................................96
Anabantids ............................................................................................96
Cyprinodonts and livebearers ............................................................98
Catfish ..................................................................................................101
Characins.............................................................................................104
Unusual characins..............................................................................106
Loaches................................................................................................108
African cichlids...................................................................................110
American cichlids...............................................................................111
Cyprinids .............................................................................................114
Oddballs ..............................................................................................116
Freshwater tropical invertebrates ...................................................117
Freshwater Coldwater Fish and Invertebrates .........................................118
Koi ........................................................................................................119
Goldfish................................................................................................120
Coldwater invertebrates....................................................................121
Captive-Bred Species ...................................................................................122
Buying Fish on the Web ...............................................................................123
AquariumFish.Net...............................................................................124
Fish2u.com ..........................................................................................124
Marine Depot Live ..............................................................................124

Chapter 9: Purchasing Your Fish . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
Choosing a Quality Dealer...........................................................................125
The search for a fish store ................................................................126
The importance of great service ......................................................127
The store’s appearance .....................................................................127
Dealer Practices: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly..................................129
Do Bee dealers ....................................................................................129
Don’t Bee dealers ...............................................................................130
Wanna Bee dealers .............................................................................130
Developing a Good Relationship with Your Fish Dealer .........................131
Selecting Healthy Fish .................................................................................131
Don’t buy the first fish off the boat..................................................132
Don’t be Doctor Doolittle ..................................................................132
Start simply .........................................................................................133
Go with what you know .....................................................................133
Look for signs of good health ...........................................................133
Know your fish’s behavior ................................................................134
Getting the Right Fish ..................................................................................134

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Chapter 10: Diet and Nutrition for Your Wet Pets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
Basic Nutrition..............................................................................................137
What your fish need...........................................................................138
Overfeeding.........................................................................................138
Underfeeding.......................................................................................139
Just-right feeding ................................................................................139
What Type of Eater Do You Have? .............................................................140
When they stop eating.......................................................................141
Carnivores ...........................................................................................142
Vegetarians..........................................................................................142
Fish that eat anything that falls into the tank.................................142
Types of Food ...............................................................................................143
Comparing prepackaged and frozen foods .....................................143
Freeze-dried foods..............................................................................144
Spirulina...............................................................................................144
Live food — the stuff they really love and want.............................145
Brine shrimp .......................................................................................145
Infusoria...............................................................................................147
Rotifers ................................................................................................147
Tubifex, bloodworms, mosquito larvae,
and earthworms (yuck!) ................................................................147
Feeding Fry ...................................................................................................147
Microworms ........................................................................................148
Liquid, powdered, and growth foods...............................................148

Chapter 11: Diseases and Treatments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .149
An Ounce of Prevention . . . ........................................................................149
Daily measures....................................................................................150
Weekly measures ................................................................................151
Monthly measures..............................................................................153
Common Ailments and Cures .....................................................................153
Common bacteria infection...............................................................154
Constipation........................................................................................154
Dropsy..................................................................................................155
Fin rot...................................................................................................155
Fish louse.............................................................................................155
Freshwater velvet ...............................................................................156
Freshwater ich ....................................................................................156
Fungus..................................................................................................157
Gill parasites .......................................................................................157
Hole in the head..................................................................................157
Intestinal parasites.............................................................................158
Large skin parasites ...........................................................................158
Mouth fungus ......................................................................................158
Pop-eye ................................................................................................158


Table of Contents
Septicemia ...........................................................................................159
Skin flukes............................................................................................159
Slimy skin disease ..............................................................................160
Swim bladder disease ........................................................................160
Tuberculosis (TB) ..............................................................................160
Frequent Causes of Disease ........................................................................161
Carbon dioxide poisoning .................................................................161
Poor water quality..............................................................................161
Metal poisoning ..................................................................................161
Chemical poisoning............................................................................162
Improper diet ......................................................................................162
Overfeeding.........................................................................................162
Frightened fish....................................................................................163
Home Remedy: Salt Bath .............................................................................163
The Sherlock Holmes Method ....................................................................164
Using Quarantine and Hospital Tanks .......................................................164
Purpose and advantages of quarantining .......................................165
Quarantine time..................................................................................165
Writing it all down ..............................................................................165
The tank...............................................................................................165
Setting Up a Hospital Tank ..........................................................................166
Understanding Medications........................................................................167

Part III: Water, Chemicals, and Plants........................169
Chapter 12: All Water Is Not Created Equal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .171
Comparing Different Water Types..............................................................172
Tap water.............................................................................................172
Rainwater ............................................................................................173
The advantages of bottled water (not Perrier) ..............................174
Well water (don’t count on it)...........................................................174
Collecting Water from Bodies of Water (Why You Want
to Forget This Bad Idea) ..........................................................................175
Adding Water to Your Aquarium ................................................................176
Home Sweet Home .......................................................................................176

Chapter 13: Those Crazy Chemicals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179
Understanding Chemical Use .....................................................................179
When should you use chemicals? ....................................................180
Following instructions to the letter .................................................180
Chemicals You Need to Start Your Aquarium...........................................181
Glass cleaner.......................................................................................181
Dechlorinator......................................................................................181
Water conditioner...............................................................................181

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Cycling chemicals...............................................................................182
Bacteria in a bottle .............................................................................182
Bacteria on a medium ........................................................................183
Water clarifier .....................................................................................183
Chemicals You Need to Maintain Your Aquarium....................................183
Waste eliminator.................................................................................183
Aquarium salt......................................................................................184
pH regulators ......................................................................................184
Cichlid buffers.....................................................................................184
Chemicals You Need for Your Plants .........................................................184
Creating your own rainforest ............................................................185
Plant grow............................................................................................186
Root Tabs.............................................................................................186
Algae control .......................................................................................186
Chemicals Your Fish Need for Medication................................................186

Chapter 14: The Nitrogen Cycle and Water Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . .187
Eliminating Fish Waste.................................................................................187
Conditioning Your Tank...............................................................................188
Starting the Nitrogen Cycle.........................................................................189
Encouraging nitrosamonas (good bacteria number one) .............189
Promoting nitrobacter (good bacteria number two).....................191
Speeding things up a bit ....................................................................191
Preventing new tank syndrome ........................................................192
Testing Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, and pH............................................193
Changing the water frequently .........................................................193
Maintaining proper pH levels............................................................194
Testing Hardness (dH).................................................................................195

Chapter 15: Putting It All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .197
Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater System ...........................................198
Setting Up Your Coldwater System ............................................................201
Setting Up Your Simple Indoor Goldfish Pond..........................................203
One Last Thing .............................................................................................204

Chapter 16: Live Plants for Freshwater Aquariums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .205
What Live Plants Do for Your Aquarium ...................................................206
Plant Types ...................................................................................................208
Floating plants ....................................................................................208
Rooted plants......................................................................................209
Cuttings................................................................................................209
Easy plant species ..............................................................................209
Maintaining Plant-Friendly Aquarium Conditions ...................................210
Temperature requirements ...............................................................210
Substrate for rooting..........................................................................211


Table of Contents
Filtration ..............................................................................................211
Feeding.................................................................................................211
Lighting ................................................................................................212
Supplements .......................................................................................212
Purchasing and Transporting Your Plants................................................212
Taking from the wild ..........................................................................212
Buying from a dealer ..........................................................................213
Getting plants home in one piece.....................................................213
Achieving acclimation .......................................................................213
Plant Problems .............................................................................................214
Signs of poor plant health .................................................................214
Algae.....................................................................................................215
Medications.........................................................................................216
Planting Techniques ....................................................................................216

Chapter 17: Choosing Plant Species for Your Tank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .217
Foreground Plants........................................................................................218
Cryptocoryne (Cryptocoryne wendetti) ........................................218
Baby tears (Micranthemum umbrosum).........................................219
Pearl grass (Hemianthus micranthemoides) ..................................220
Brazilian micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis) .............................220
Madagascar lace (Aponogeton fenestralis) ....................................221
Dwarf anubias (Anubias nana) .........................................................221
Background Plants .......................................................................................222
Hornwort (CeratopHyllum demersum) ...........................................222
Corkscrew val (Vallisneria spiralis) .................................................223
Elodea (Egeria densa) ........................................................................223
Carolina fanwort (Cambomba caroliniana).....................................224
Giant anubias (Anubias barteri).......................................................224
Red ludwigia (Ludwigia mullertii) ....................................................225
Oriental sword (Echinodorus oriental) ...........................................226
Amazon sword (Echinodorus amazonicus) ....................................226
Red-stem milfoil (MyriopHyllum matogrossensis) ........................227
Stargrass (Heteranthera zosterifolia) ..............................................227
Floating Plants ..............................................................................................228
Amazon frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) .......................................228
Duckweed (Lemna minor).................................................................228
Pond Plants ...................................................................................................229
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) .......................................................229
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)...........................................230
Keeping It Real..............................................................................................230

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Chapter 18: What to Do if Trouble Strikes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .231
Fish Problems ...............................................................................................232
What to do until the pet store opens...............................................232
Restoring your tank............................................................................232
Separating fighting fish ......................................................................232
Looking at the injured........................................................................233
Solving the aggression problem .......................................................233
Correcting Feeding Problems .....................................................................233
Getting your fish to eat ......................................................................233
Dislodging items eaten by your fish.................................................233
Equipment Problems ...................................................................................234
Fixing a clogged filter.........................................................................234
Analyzing heater problems ...............................................................234
Lighting falling into the tank .............................................................234
Exploding light bulbs .........................................................................235
Flickering lighting ...............................................................................235
Tank Problems ..............................................................................................235
Checking for leaks ..............................................................................235
Getting your fish to safety.................................................................235
Repairing a small crack .....................................................................236
When an entire side of your aquarium breaks ...............................236
Water Problems ............................................................................................236
Solving green algae problems ...........................................................236
Controlling chemical problems ........................................................237
Cooling a tank that’s too hot.............................................................237
Warming a tank that’s too cold.........................................................238

Part IV: Breeding and Other Fun Stuff ........................239
Chapter 19: The Breeding Room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .241
Deciding to Breed Your Aquarium Fish .....................................................242
Breaking new barriers .......................................................................242
Gaining new knowledge and enjoyment ..........................................242
Conserving the environment ............................................................243
Choosing Your Equipment ..........................................................................243
The aquarium......................................................................................244
Putting a lid on the whole thing .......................................................244
Decorations .........................................................................................244
Substrate .............................................................................................245
Spawning grates..................................................................................245
Turning up the heat............................................................................246


Table of Contents
Filtration ..............................................................................................246
Plants for safety, spawning, and inspiration ...................................246
Getting the Water Right ...............................................................................249
pH and dH control ..............................................................................249
Water temperature .............................................................................249
Cleanliness ..........................................................................................249
Conditioning the Love Birds .......................................................................250
The way to the heart is through the stomach routine ..................250
The old fake rainstorm trick .............................................................250
The barometric pressure advantage................................................251
The old change the temperature ploy .............................................251
The new guy next door approach ....................................................251
The absence makes the heart grow fonder routine .......................252
So What’s Next? ............................................................................................252

Chapter 20: Let’s Spawn! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .253
Introducing the Bride and Groom ..............................................................254
Dealing with aggressive males..........................................................255
Setting up the second date................................................................255
Yay, my fish really like each other! ...................................................255
Darn, my fish hate each other!..........................................................255
Understanding Breeding Types ..................................................................256
Livebearers..........................................................................................256
The egglayers......................................................................................257
Saving Everyone from Everyone Else ........................................................259
Saving Mom and Dad from Mom and Dad .......................................259
Saving the kids from Mom and Dad .................................................259
Saving the kids from each other.......................................................261
Raising the Fry..............................................................................................261
Stepping up to brine shrimp .............................................................261
Giving them a real home....................................................................261
Picking new stock...............................................................................262
Understanding Genetics ..............................................................................262
Choosing the best...............................................................................262
Obtaining variation the good way....................................................262
Obtaining variation the bad way ......................................................263
Creating strains through inbreeding................................................263
Choosing the Right Species for You...........................................................263
Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) ...............................................................264
Convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) .............................264
Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare).....................................................264
A Few Final Tips ...........................................................................................265

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Chapter 21: Recording Data and Photographing Fish . . . . . . . . . . . . .267
Keeping a Log Book .....................................................................................267
Photographing Your Fish the Old-Fashioned Way ...................................268
The camera .........................................................................................269
The film................................................................................................270
Lenses ..................................................................................................271
Black and white and the darkroom ..................................................272
Photographing Your Fish with Digital Photography................................272
Printing your work .............................................................................273
Computer-aided fish photography...................................................273
Lighting Techniques ...................................................................................274
Focusing Techniques ..................................................................................275
Composition Techniques ............................................................................276
Using the rule of thirds ......................................................................277
Panning the scene ..............................................................................277
Setting up for close-ups .....................................................................278
The Photography Tank ................................................................................278
Building your own photography tank..............................................279
Using different backgrounds.............................................................280

Chapter 22: Competing in Fish Shows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281
Why Competing in Fish Shows Is Good for Your Fish .............................282
Getting to Know the Shows.........................................................................282
Small shows.........................................................................................282
Regional shows ...................................................................................283
Open shows.........................................................................................283
Exhibitions ..........................................................................................283
Understanding Competition Classes .........................................................283
Getting Your Fish in Shape for the Show...................................................284
Swimming upright and smiling .........................................................284
The holding tank.................................................................................285
Exhibiting Your Fish Properly.....................................................................286
Water conditions ................................................................................286
Tank considerations...........................................................................286
Judging Guidelines for Your Fish: Another Point of View .......................287
Size and body weight .........................................................................288
Color and fins......................................................................................289
Overall condition................................................................................291
Transporting Fish to and from a Show ......................................................291
Remember to Have Fun ...............................................................................292


Table of Contents
Chapter 23: For the Advanced Aquarium Hobbyist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .293
Brackish Aquariums...........................................................................293
Saltwater Marine Aquariums ............................................................294
Types of marine systems...................................................................294
Marine invertebrates .........................................................................295
Comparing Freshwater and Saltwater Systems........................................296
Adaptability.........................................................................................296
Availability...........................................................................................296
Cost ......................................................................................................297
Beauty and friendliness .....................................................................297
Equipment ...........................................................................................297

Part V: The Part of Tens .............................................299
Chapter 24: Ten Cool Aquarium Gadgets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .301
Aquarium Claws (Those Handy Picker-Upper Doodads)........................301
Algae Scrapers Are Fun to Use ...................................................................301
Why Owning One Net Doesn’t Cut It..........................................................302
A Tool Box for Storing Stuff .......................................................................302
Extra Tubing for Emergencies ....................................................................303
Aquarium Sealer (Flood Insurance)...........................................................303
Gang Valves to Hook Up Neat Junk ............................................................303
Buckets to Slosh Around In.........................................................................304
Multi-Outlet Plugs ........................................................................................304
Razor Blades (the Miracle Cleaner)...........................................................304

Chapter 25: Ten Ways to Kill Your Fish Without Even Trying . . . . . . .305
Go Away on Vacation and Forget Them ....................................................305
Play Doctor Without a License ...................................................................305
Give Your Cat a Sushi Bar............................................................................306
Stuff Your Fish with Seven-Course Meals ..................................................306
Mix Apples and Oranges .............................................................................306
Add Too Many Fish (the Shoehorn Syndrome)........................................307
Don’t Do Your Homework ...........................................................................307
Let the Neighbor’s Nasty Kid Play with Your Fish ...................................307
Become a Hypochondriac Hobbyist ..........................................................308
Buy Used or Cheap Equipment ..................................................................308

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Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
Chapter 26: Ten Scientific Fish Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .309
The Fish Law of Thermodynamics.............................................................309
The Fish Law of Metamorphosis ................................................................310
The Fish Law of Motion ...............................................................................310
The Fish Law of Anti-Matter........................................................................310
The Fish Law of Nutrition............................................................................311
The Fish Law of Company...........................................................................311
The Fish Law of Potential Energy...............................................................311
The Fish Law of Psychic Felines.................................................................311
The Fish Law of Aggression ........................................................................312
The Fish Law of Time...................................................................................312

Chapter 27: Ten Aquatic New Year’s Resolutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .313
Feed the Fish.................................................................................................313
Clean the Tank ..............................................................................................313
Reduce Celibacy ...........................................................................................313
Remove Algae ...............................................................................................314
Change the Filter Pads.................................................................................314
Turn on the Lights........................................................................................314
Use My Test Kits...........................................................................................314
Pay Attention to My Fish.............................................................................314
Change the Airstones ..................................................................................314
Redecorate the Tank....................................................................................314

Appendix: Tank Figures and Facts ..............................315
How Big a Tank Should I Get? .....................................................................315
Conversions (and Other Useful Data) .......................................................316
How Many Fish Can I Put in the Tank? ......................................................318
How Much Gravel Can I Put in the Tank? ..................................................319

Index........................................................................323


Introduction

W

elcome to the wonderful world of freshwater aquariums! Freshwater
Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is a handy reference guide for
those who want the basics of setting up and maintaining an aquarium system.
Everything you need to know to get started on your very own freshwater
system can be found right here in this book.
In this book we tell you about tank styles and equipment, disease prevention
and cures, aquarium decoration, maintenance routines, species of fish and
their habits, test kits for your water, and tips on working with plants. And
much, much more. You’re likely to encounter all sorts of equipment and different fish species in pet shops, but all you need is the information contained
in this book to get you started on the road to successful fishkeeping. After
you master the basics, you will be able to venture into new areas of aquarium
keeping with confidence.
So sit back and journey into the fascinating world of freshwater aquariums,
gathering the basics of keeping your fish healthy and happy the easy way.
Your new aquatic pets will love you for it.

Why a Book for Dummies?
You may have heard horror stories about your neighbor’s aquarium. Or
maybe your best friend told you that his new aquarium that was in his
second floor apartment is now decorating the downstairs tenant’s apartment.
Okay, problems happen, but these rare aquarium misadventures can be
avoided with a proper knowledge of the basics.
About 99 percent of all potential aquarium problems never occur if hobbyists
take the time to learn a few simple fishkeeping basics. Wet floors can be
mopped, and tanks can be repaired. Aquarium keeping will still move forward, despite the occasional setbacks encountered from time to time.


2

Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies, 2nd Edition
It’s really very easy to become a successful fishkeeper. All you need is a little bit
of help to get you going, which is exactly what this book provides. Freshwater
Aquariums For Dummies 2nd Edition gives you good, basic information and the
ammo you need to battle any problems that may occur as you live with your
aquarium.

What We Assume About You
If you’re an absolute beginner, never owned an aquarium before, or never
even fed a goldfish, then this book has all the information you need to get
started. We assume that you have no prior knowledge of how to set up an
aquarium or take care of fish.
However, if you do know a little something about fishkeeping, you’ll find this
book to be a great resource as well. You’ll discover how to keep your aquarium cleaner and how to make your fish healthier. This book is for just about
anyone who’s the least bit interested in aquariums.

How to Use This Book
This book is a reference, not a tutorial. You don’t have to read it from Chapter
1 to the Appendix if you just want to get a glimpse of the hobby before you get
down to the basics. Just use the Table of Contents or Index to find the topics
that interest you and go from there. If you want to check out some cool fish,
turn to the freshwater species chapter first. If you want to look at a few plants,
there are chapters for those as well. Start with your needs and interests.

How This Book Is Organized
Even though this book is a nonlinear reference, we did go to the trouble of
organizing the chapters in a logical fashion. Here’s how things break down:

Part I: Aquarium Basics
The chapters in this part present all the information required to get an aquarium started. From choosing and finding a good location for a tank and equipment to adding artificial plants and substrate, you’ll find everything you need
to create a safe home for your fish.


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