On the FAQ II, we had identified the various
problems and a couple of related issues that
are commonly encountered in maintaining saltwater
tanks. On this page, we would like to discuss
a few methods that can keep the problems
under control which can be very handy.
Why is it so difficult for me to maintain
If the above question has come across your
mind, you are probably asking the wrong question to begin with. It is very likely
because you had misunderstood what we mean
by maintaining a tank. "The saltwater
aquarium hobby is so attractive, yet so expensive."
Well, this is not exactly true because even
if you have all the fancy equipments like
us, you still need to maintain your tank(s)
regularly. The saltwater aquarium hobby is
indeed a very serious hobby because a wonderful
tank does not happen automatically once you
have plugged in all the filters and skimmers.
It requires your time and work to keep it.
In fact, we have seen too many people who
are very happy about their tanks in the beginning
and give up the hobby after half a year.
It is very important for the beginners to
understand this point: the saltwater aquarium
hobby requires you to spend sometime on cleaning
up your tank and your filters and testing
your water, etc.
The key that you must remember whenever you
feel being lazy in maintaining your tank
is that all of the problems that you read
about on the FAQ II show up again in the
a couple of weeks (depending on how well your system works).
The key to maintain is to keep every thing
under control. Of course, if you do not know
the quality of the water, you cannot do that.
So the biggest part of maintaining a tank
is testing the chemical levels in your water.
Now you can see that why the above question
is the wrong question to ask. First, it is
not difficult. But you must understand that
maintaining a saltwater tank is not about
eliminating the algaes problem or pH problem
once and for all. It requires constant monitoring
of your own tank. Second, if you do not
put any effort in maintaining your tank,
meaning not to measure your chemical levels
and not to do the corresponding changes on
a regular basis, you do not stand a chance
to maintain your tank.
So the first thing that you should get so
far from this page is to remember that maintaining a successful tank requires you
spending time on your tank on a regular basis.
If you do that, you have half of the key
to maintain a wonderful tank.
Why do you need some one who knows more than
you to guide you along?
If you have been reading books on saltwater
aquariums and this web site, you should know
the appropriate pH levels, ammonia levels,
and all. Those information is handy and it
is a must-have. However, with only those
information, you can still have problems
with maintaining your tank. This is because
the books only tell you what you should not
do. But in real life, what should not happen
happens quite frequently. What actually happens in our shop is customers
walking in and saying that they have algae
problems. If you have been reading articles
on this web site, you should know that algae
problems can be triggered by a low salinity
level, a low pH level, or a bad lighting
system, just to name a few. This agrees with
your books. But knowing this does not solve
the problem. Which one is it?
So this is why you need some one who has
been around long enough. This is where your
books fail to give you any information and
this is when your tank is actually having
problems. To be able to identify the real
causes of your problem requires experience.
The only reason for us to be able to identify
the causes is because we had screwed up so
many times before you. (So we know how and,
possibly, why you did it.) So the other half of the key in maintaining
your tank is to look for some one who has
experience and really knows what he is talking
about. Once you have found one, stick to
him. Why stick to him? Simply because he knows
every thing about your tank. He knows if
the fish is sick or not. He knows what kind
of equipments and more importantly the quality
of the equipments that you have. The diagnosis
does not work well if the person has too
many unknowns to play with.
So there you go. You have just learnt all
the tricks that you will need in maintaining
a tank. Let's look at some more products
that may be handy in regular maintainance.
Phosphate Test Kit
On the left is a picture of a Phosphate test
kit from SALIFERT. You can see the 2 chemical
solutions that you will need to do the test.
The general testing procedure is very easy.
Add the required amount of your water into
the plastic container (the top one) and mix
it with the chemicals. Wait for the water
to change its color and match the result
with the color chart shown.
What we want to show you here is that as you can see it is very difficult to tell
your result when you try to match the water
sample with the color chart provided. This is the major drawback of this and
many other similar kinds of test strips.
First, they are complicated to use. Second,
it is difficult for you to tell the result
of the test by matching the colors of your
result and the color chart. This can really
damage the the accuracy of your test.
As you have probably known, silicate and
phosphate are chemicals that will show up
in your initial water tests when you just
set up your tank.
Let us review about Phosphate brieftly here.
What is it? Why do you want to remove it?
Phosophate is simply one of the nutrients
that are set free in the decomposition of
plants, and other dead micro-organisms. What
is different between Phosphate from Silicate
is that there is always a pool of phosphate present in your tank. The interesting
thing is that the pool of phosphate is inversely
related to the pH level in the tank. That
is, more phosphate molecules are released
if the pH level is lower than before. Since phosphate is an essential nutrient
to algaes, any extra phosphate in your tank
leads to an uncontrolled growth of algaes.
If you have an effective protein skimmer,
the excess phosphate can be removed as one
of the nutrients by the skimmer. This is
because phosphate usually combines with other
chemcials when it is dissolved in the water.
However, if the pH level has not been set
such as in the case of setting up a new tank,
the 2 phosphate remover products can be quite
MERLIN Fluidized Bed Bio - Filter
On the left is a picture of the MERLIN (Fluidized Bed) bio filter that is working in our invertebrate tanks. We have also introduced this product in More Bio Filteration. Let us take a closer look at it here.
As you can see the bio-filter is quite easy to install. All you need to do is to connect the inlet (the middle and higher blue hose) to a power head. In our case, there is also a pre-filter connected to the power head in order to keep any mechanical waste from entering the power head and destroying it.
The water enters the bio-filter by first going through the middle plastic pipe, which directs the water to flow to the bottom of the chamber first. The water then enters the chamber that actually contains the filter media. Once the water has entered the chamber, the filter media is lift up by the water pressure and the fluidized bed is formed. Outside of the chamber, there is a sticker showing the water levels that your fluidized bed should be. It is better to adjust the level to be within the range. Just under the inlet blue hose, you can see the knobs that can do the adjustment for you. The adjustment can be made by turning the bigger knob and then the smaller knob (for fine adjustment).
Maintaining your MERLIN bio-filter is also
straight forward. The filter media should be added once a while
since running the filter constantly can have
some of the (really) fine filter media getting
away from the chamber and entering to your
tank. However, this is not the main concern
in maintaining this filter.
What is more important is that as time goes by, there will be algaes formed on the surface of the chamber. This calls for the maintainance need. You need to shut off the filter first and clean the chamber. If you think it is needed, you can replace the media at the same time. In fact, the filter that you see here was just cleaned before the photo was taken. But you can still see the algae attached near the bottom of the chamber (the little red suraface area).
To ensure that your filter is working at its peak efficiency, there are two other external factors that you need to check also. Do you need to clean the pre-filter? Is my power head providing enough power for the filter? Are you having a hard time for the fluidized bed to stay at a level that you have set a few days ago? Are you having a hard time to adjust the level to the minimum recommended level? Do you need to keep the inlet open to its maximum level at all times in order to reach the minimum level? If one or more of this answers is yes, then your power head is not strong enough for the filter and you may consider getting a one-level up power head to optimize the filter's performance.
In fact, choosing the right power head for this and other similar bio-filter is critical to the fluidizied bio-filter. This is because we always want a constant water flow into the chamber. Recall that a bio-filter provides the living conditions for the bacteria needed in the 2nd step of the bio chemical decomposition process. This type of bacteria is aerobic in nature. They need oxygen and food. The constant water flow can ensure the availability of the oxygen and food to the bacteria. In other words, if you have purachased this or a similar fluidized bed filter, but forget to get a power head that can support the water flow required, you are wasting your filter. All you need to do is to get a power head that is strong enough to do the job, so there is no need to get a really expensive one. But do remember this point if you are using or thinking of getting a bio-filter.
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