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The Basics: Starting a Freshwater Aquarium, Part 2

Filling the Aquarium Proper water quality is a must for your fish, if you have municipal water you will need to dechlorinate. When you are ready to fill the tank, place 30% to 50% of the water in the tank, place decorations and plants; connect the pump and air line tubing if you are adding air stones. Place the thermometer so you will be able to check it at a glance. Fill the rest of the aquarium. Install the heater so after the water is heated it will quickly reach the filter and mix throughout the tank. The circulation of the heated water will keep an even temperature in the aquarium. Water Conditioning, Step 1 As mentioned earlier, if you have municipal water, you will need to dechlorinate it. The next step is to adjust the pH. Finally, add a biological (cycling) product. Fishlady Note: Do not skip ahead to the cycling product or if you do, understand that any test you do on the water will most likely be inaccurate. Some biological products need to run through a filtration system anywhere from 24-48 hours before a water test can be done. I had this happen to me once using testing strips to check the water quality. You will instantly know that you have gotten a false read because the biological product will react with the test strip and give you colors not even on the manufacturer's comparison chart. Also, the testing is most accurate when the manufacturer of the chemicals used and the testing products are the same. General pH Guidelines LIVEBEARERS: 7.0 to 7.6 RASBORAS: 6.2 to 6.8 AFRICAN CICHLIDS: 7.8 to 8.5 RAINBOWS: 7.0 to 7.4 GOLDFISH: 6.5 to 7.0 Next will be filtration, a filter should be able to process water in the tank 6-8 times per hour. The hood or light can be placed on the tank now. The aquarium should not be lighted more than about 8 hours a day; excessive light will cause algae to build up in the tank, causing problems that are best avoided. Water Conditioning and Testing, Step 2 Over the next 3 days the filter and heater should be run to adjust for the type fish you will wish to add to the tank. After 3 or 4 more days the water in the tank should be tested with commercially available strips, even though there are no fish yet in the tank. Desired Levels (Typical Tropical Fish): pH 6.8 - 7.2 Nitrate 0 mg/L Nitrite 0 mg/L Chlorine and Chloramines 0.0 mg/L Ammonia 0.0 mg/L Hardness (which is usually from well water) 100 - 250 mg/L Temperature (between) 75 - 78 degrees Aquarium Cycling, Step 3 Purchase a cycling aid product to seed the tank with bacteria. Cycling the tank is the process of establishing bacterial colonies in the filter bed that converts ammonia (fish excrement and excess food) to nitrite, then nitrate. This is a good place in the program to mention over-feeding is definitely hazardous to your fish, since it is the most common cause of ammonia levels, second only to overcrowding your tank. Note: During the new aquarium cycling process, it is not unusual for the water to become cloudy. It will take several weeks to several months to establish bacterial colonies that are able to clear wastes from the water. Over time that cloudiness will resolve itself. Adding Fish Now that your tank has cycled and the test strips show the water is ideal, fish can be added to the tank. Add fish slowly, 2 or 3 a week. You will want to test for nitrate spikes to see if ammonia levels are at an unsafe level. Drops in temperature, a

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