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Basic Glossary

Adjusting to any new hobby and the inclusive practices can be confusing because of all the unfamiliar terminology. Here are a few terms and basic descriptions to aid you in better understanding the wonderful world of aquariums.

Acclimation - Process of slowly adjusting organisms to new water conditions, usually in transportation cases.

Air Pump - A device that forces air and forces it into the aquarium. Their primary function is to oxygenate water, although they can be used to power airstones, undergravel filters, or decorations.

Ammonia - A toxic chemical byproduct produced in the breakdown of proteins. It is later converted to nitrite, then nitrate through naturally occurring processes in the nitrogen cycle.

Antibiotics - A type of medication to inhibit bacteria growth.

Aquascape - Refers to the overall layout of the aquarium, including rocks, plants and other various decorations.

Biological Filtration - Natural process in which bacteria breaks down potentially harmful ammonia into a less toxic nitrate.

BPM - Stands for "bubbles per minute" and is used in measuring release amounts of CO2.

Brackish - Water with a slight salt content, usually found where a river and ocean meet.

Brine Shrimp - Small crustaceans used as a food source for both fresh and saltwater fish.

Bubble Nest - A floating nest of air bubbles which support the eggs laid by the female and is guarded by the male.

Canister Filter - Large capacity external filter that integrates water through layers of filter media.

Carnivore - An organism that consumes meat.

Chemical Filtration - Process of removing dissolved particles through chemical reactions.

Chiller - Mechanical unit used to lower water temperature.

Chloramine - Chemical compound of chlorine and ammonia which can be harmful to fish.

Carbon Dioxide System - Series of devices assembled to introduce and regulate carbon dioxide for aquarium use.

Community Tank - An aquarium that houses a number of different species of fish, all compatible with each other because of similar water parameter requirements.

Cycling - Process of establishing biological filtration by promoting the growth of nitrifying bacteria.

Doser - A liquid distribution system used to maintain aquarium water levels.

Filter - A device that circulates water and removes impurities from an aquarium.

Fry - Newly hatched fish.

Herbivore - An organism that consumes plants.

Hydrometer - An instrument that measures the specific gravity and salinity of marine water aquariums.

Ich - A common parasitic disease appears in the form of white spots.

Internal Filter - A filter contained completely inside the tank, whether it is partially or completely submerged.

Invertebrates - Organisms that lack a backbone.

Light Meter - An instrument designed to measure light intensity.

Live-Bearer - Any fish that gives birth to live young.

Mechanical Filtration - The process of physically removing solid debris from the aquarium as water passes through a filter media.

Nitrate - End result of the nitrogen cycle; the least toxic nitrogen byproduct. In large quantities, it can still be dangerous.

Nitrite - A toxic byproduct of the nitrogen cycle. Often broken down and used by plants.

Nitrogen Cycle - The natural process by which certain bacteria turn harmful ammonia, from fish waste and other decaying matter, into nitrite and then into less harmful nitrate.

Omnivore - An organism that feeds on a combination of plant and animal matter.

pH - Relative measurement of alkalinity or acidity.

Plankton – Small colonizing organisms that serve as food for other larger organisms.

ppm - An abbreviation for parts per million; used in test kits to measure particular elements.

Powerhead - Small water pump used to power undergravel filters, wavemakers, and other aquatic devices.

Protein Skimmer – Filter that removes dissolved organic material and waste from saltwater.

Quarantine Tank – Standby tank set up for new arrival or sick fish to isolate and monitor them to ensure that no undesirable elements are transferred to the main tank.

Refugium – Aquariums used as an extension of saltwater or reef aquariums; they are used to filter and cycle water while stabilizing conditions.

R/O Units – Refers to reverse osmosis units, which are water purification devices that filter water by pressurization.

Siphon – Refers to a hose or tubing, used when conducting a water change.

Shine Coat – Layer of protective music that covers the scales of fish.

Specific Gravity - Measurement of the relative density, or salt content, of your aquarium water in comparison to pure water.

Substrate – Aquarium gravel that settles on the bottom; functional substrate contains minerals that influence water parameters such as pH and alkalinity.

Undergravel Filter – A filter that is placed underneath the substrate; they pull water through the substrate where beneficial bacteria which are essential for the nitrogen cycle colonize.

Water Change – Process of replacing old aquarium water. Generally 10% should be replaced every week.

Water Parameters – Usually refers to aspects of water involving chemistry, such as pH, alkalinity, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels, and water temperature.

Wet/Dry Filters – A filter that is designed to expose bacteria to both wet and dry conditions to achieve maximum biological filtration.

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