Maintaining Your Aquariums During the Summer

hot summer temperatures

Summer Fun – Well the weather in most of the northern hemisphere is starting to show signs of summer!  And I’m sure for many of you it means heading outdoors and reconnecting with hobbies outside of the house.  While this is good news for all of us it can be the opposite for our finned friends.  Hopefully for them they are still remembered and taken care of.  Here are a few tips that can insure your fish don’t suffer when things get hot.

Tip #1 – Keep it cool.  Warmer, outside temperatures can mean warmer ambient air temperatures inside.  This can be a good thing for a lot of tropical fish but can be devastating for others.  I know that many of my fish thrive in the summer months because my tanks increase a few degrees on average.  This slight increase in water temp can cause spawning, increase color and more activity.  A few degrees increase in aquarium water temperature is typically not a big issue.  Large increases can be trouble.   A big negative to increase water temperature is lower dissolved oxygen levels.  The oxygen carrying capacity of water decreases as it increases in temperature.  Increased water temperature will usually increase a fish’s metabolism.  This makes them more active, and they use up more oxygen.  In crowed aquarium oxygen levels can plummet leading to fish loss.  It’s important to increase surface agitation in your aquarium, which in turn with help gas exchange, increasing the dissolved oxygen in your aquarium.  This can be done by increasing water flow through your filter, adding an air pump and air stone or by locating a power head or circulation pump at the water surface.  Another great solution is to blow air across the surface of the aquarium.  This will help to decrease the water temperature and also aid in gas exchange.

Tip #2 – Know your temp!  You need to have a thermometer on your aquarium.  Some of the newer electronic thermometers actually have temperature alarms that will warn you of a low or high temperature in your aquarium.  Knowing your aquarium is reaching a critical temperature allows you to solve the problem prior to it affecting your fish.

Tip #3 – Chow Time! In the summer months I would rather be outside enjoying the sun and nature vs. sitting inside!  This of course keeps us away from our aquariums.  If you’re not around your fish still need to eat!  I add automatic feeders to all of my tanks during summer months.  Most automatic feeders on the market allow you to feed 1 to 4 times a day.  I like to feed my fish small amounts of food multiple times a day.  When I’m home, not traveling, I will feed in the morning and evening and then have my auto feeders to feed once during midday.  When I’m on the road I will set the feeder to feed small amounts three times a day.  I refill my feeders every weekend.  Automatic fish feeders are an effective way to insure your fish get feed regardless of your schedule.  It’s just one less thing you need to worry about.

Tip #4 – It’s Electric!  The summer months can be a great time to save $$ on electricity.  Two ways I save money is by dialing back my heater a few degrees and also running my lights less.  I take advantage of the longer daylight during the summer.  In my house the ambient light affects my aquariums.  While ambient light is not direct light, it does bring my tank to life a lot earlier in the morning.   I have all of my lights on timers and typically give my aquariums 10 hours of light a day.  In the summer months I will cut that back to 7-8 hours and sometimes more, depending on how much extra ambient light my aquarium is getting.  Less light also will help with excess algae and less algae means less maintenance, which in turn means more time for me outside!

These are just a few tips to help you enjoy your aquarium and your summer at the same time!

The Origin of Goldfish

two goldfish

It’s one of the earliest fish kept for its beauty and enjoyment.  It could be said that the species of fish is the genesis of fish keeping.  Of course we’re talking about the common goldfish.  The fish as we know it today has been selectively bred for centuries to achieve the look that it has today.  Beginning in ancient China, carp with specific color and fin mutations were separated and bred to reinforce the desired traits.  Early color mutations were silver, red, orange and yellow.

In 1162, during the Song dynasty, the empress collected gold (yellow) carp and began keeping them in outdoor ponds.  It was actually forbidden for anyone other than someone from the imperial family to keep these yellow fish, which was the imperial color.

During the Ming dynasty, goldfish began being kept in indoor ponds.  This allowed for even greater varieties of goldfish to be developed.  Mutations that would not survive in outdoor ponds became popular.  Fancy tailed goldfish and goldfish with unique body shapes were first bred during this period.  Goldfish were also introduced to Japan at this time which lead to even more selective breeding and an even greater number of unique species.

 

 

What is Aquaponics?

side with plant & water

Happy Earth Day!

Today is the day when people from around the world promote making changes in our lives to better help the environment. Do you know that switching your aquarium to an aquaponics filter can help with water conservation? It’s true. Read on to learn what aquaponics is and why this natural filtration method is beneficial

Aquaponics combines the aquaculture of ornamental, or food fish, with hydroponics (growing plants without soil). The fish provide a nutrient source for the plants in the form of their waste, and the plants provide a natural filter for the fish as they utilize the waste in the water as a nitrogen source to grow. On a larger scale, aquaponics is becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable food production system for growing fish and produce. For a home aquarium, aquaponics filtration provides a truly natural filtration option, taking advantage of the nutrient cycle that naturally exists in lakes, rivers, and ponds to reduce water changes and maintain a healthy environment for your fish.

Elive AquaDuo power filters have a unique dual purpose design allowing this one filter to be easily set up as either a traditional power filter or an aquaponics aquarium filter. Our filter makes it easy for anyone interested in aquaponics and natural filtration options to give it a try on their home aquarium. See for yourself…

Aquarium LED Lighting Terms: Part 3

LED lighting for aquariums

You read about Lumen and Lux in Part 1. Then you learned about PAR, PPFD and PUR in Part 2. The final group of terms we would like to discuss in part 3 of our series about common aquarium lighting focuses on the energy consumed by the light fixture, and how efficiently the fixture uses energy to generate light for our aquariums.

Watt – The watt is the SI unit for power defined as joules per second and is used to describe an energy transfer or conversion.  For a light fixture, the amount of power that is consumed during operation (being converted into both light and heat) is measured as watts and represents energy consumed per unit time.  For most household electrical devices, the wattage (power) rating of the product is in watt hours.  For example, an incandescent light bulb rated as 100W consumes 100 watts of power for each hour it is in operation.

Efficacy – In general, efficacy is the amount of power required to produce a desired effect.  When we discuss efficacy of different aquarium lighting, we are specifically looking at the power consumed by the fixture in watts per unit of light output.  The unit of light output we are interested in depends on our application and may be lumens if we are concerned with visual brightness, or PPF (photosynthetic photon flux) if we are concerned with photosynthesis.  Lumens per watt (lm/w) is a common measure of efficacy for general lighting applications.

Wattage is often used as a metric to compare the performance of different aquarium light fixtures, but as the definition above describes, it only tells part of the story.  As a consumer it is important to understand that the amount of light output generated per watt of power consumed will vary dramatically between lighting technologies.  Just because a product has a higher wattage rating (uses more power) doesn’t necessarily mean it produces more light.  In terms of efficiency and saving on your electric bill, the fixture that produces the most light for the least amount of power consumed would be the winner.

When shopping for an LED aquarium light fixture it is best to work backwards, starting with your specific application to find the right fixture for you, and all the terms we have discussed in these last few lighting posts will help!  If you are primarily interested in visual brightness and color enhancing of the fish and décor you will want to look closely at a fixture’s lumen and lux claims.  If you are interested in growing (or plan to in the future) freshwater plants or corals you will want to consider a fixture’s spectrum for photosynthesis (PUR) and PPFD (sometimes called PAR) claims.  If your aquarium is taller you will want to look at these light intensity claims at different distances from the fixture so you can be sure the illumination will be adequate deeper in the aquarium.  Lastly, consider the efficacy of the light fixture, especially when comparing different lighting technologies (for example LED v. HOT5), to ensure you are getting the best product performance and saving on your electric bill at the same time.

For any technical questions or to discuss the best Elive LED aquarium lighting for you home aquarium please contact us at elivesupport@elivepet.com or 1-855-354-8318.

 

Plants for Betta Fish Aquariums

plant in a betta fish aquarium

Betta fish + aquatic plant = a happy fish!  Improved water quality, increased dissolved oxygen and reduced maintenance are just a few benefits of adding a plant to your Betta bowl or aquarium.  A terrestrial plant, like Lucky Bamboo, when placed in your Betta’s home will root in days, begin growing and will start working it’s magic by improving the water your fish lives in.

Dissolved fish waste (nitrate) in your aquarium can be removed by changing water, filtration or naturally by a plant. Many small bowls are not large enough for filters, and let’s face it ,we don’t always keep up on water changes like we should.  The plant’s roots take up nitrate as food and remove it from the water.  The plant becomes a natural filter in your bowl.  In fact one shoot of lucky bamboo in a half gallon bowl will almost remove all of the nitrates your fish produces.  This doesn’t mean that water changes are still not necessary, but it does make the water that they swim in is cleaner and better for them.

Adding a plant not only will make your fish happier and healthier it will also make your bowl look beautiful.  Have questions about our products, adding a plant to your Betta bowl or just basic questions on plants for betta fish?  Email us at customerservice@elivepet.com!

Aquarium LED Lighting Terms: Part 2

LED aquarium lighting

The next group of terms we would like to discuss in part 2 of our series about common aquarium lighting focuses on the light required for photosynthesis.  Providing light required to maintain photosynthetic organisms, like plants and corals, is the next most important thing a lighting system can do over your aquarium after providing the necessary illumination for viewing purposes. Let’s break down terms you should know when buying aquarium lighting.

PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation): the spectral range of light from 400 to 700nm that organisms are able to use for the process of photosynthesis.  PAR is the type of light we are interested in measuring if we want to understand how well a light fixture will maintain photosynthetic organisms.  Just as lumens and lux are metrics used to measure light that the human eye is sensitive to, PAR has a set of its own metrics that follow a similar format.

PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density): to understand PPFD we must first discuss photosynthetic photon flux (PPF).  PPF is similar to lumens in that it measures the total amount of light being emitted (PAR output) by a light source in all directions. In this case, the type of light we are measuring is PAR.  PPF is measured in micromoles of photons per second.  PPFD is similar to lux in that is measures how well a surface at a given distance from the light source is illuminated (PAR intensity) by looking at the density of photons hitting it, and again the type of light we are measuring is PAR.  PPFD is measured in micromoles of photons per square meter per second.  In the aquarium hobby when most people are talking about PAR or PAR intensity they are actually referring to PPFD at a specific distance from the light fixture, but the terms are often used interchangeably.  Like lux, measuring PPFD or reviewing PPFD data at various distances from the light fixture will tell you how well the fixture directs the PAR it is producing into the target area and onto the various photosynthetic organisms in the aquarium.

PUR (Photosynthetically Usable Radiation): While PPFD allows us to measure the quantity of light available to an organism for photosynthesis, the concept of PUR allows us to consider the quality of that light for photosynthesis.  The other system for measuring light has a similar metric you may be familiar with, CRI or Color Rendering Index, which measures the quality of a light source at revealing true colors to the human eye when compared to ideal natural sunlight.  Although PAR ranges from 400 to 700 nm, certain wavelengths of light across that spectrum are more efficient at generating photosynthetic activity in the plants and algae than others.  For example, the pigment chlorophyll a, one of the most common photosynthetic pigments, absorbs the most energy from violet-blue light and red light.  Although the pigment can also absorb some energy from green and yellow light, it does so much less efficiently.  This means that a light source that emits more of its PAR in the violet-blue and red ranges would have higher PUR for the pigment chlorophyll a.

PUR is difficult to quantify and is more of a concept for reviewing the quality of light spectra than a true metric.  Since there are many different types of photosynthetic pigments found in plants and algae, each with different peaks in their absorption spectra, PUR is specific to a certain type of photosynthetic pigment.  To further complicate things organisms often have multiple types of these pigments present.  We are just beginning to understand the types of photosynthetic pigments present in symbiotic algae inside coral polyps, and the complex relationship that exists here.  For the average aquarium hobbyist the idea of PUR is one of quality versus quantity, and understanding that having a lot of photons is great, but it is also important that they are the best types of photons (wavelengths) for photosynthesis in our aquarium inhabitants.

Next week we will discuss wattage draw and efficacy of LED light fixtures and provide a nice summary of what to look for in an LED light fixture for your home aquarium using the terms we have discussed.

View our collection of aquarium LED lighting.

Aquarium LED Lighting Terms: Part 1

aquarium led lighting

LED lighting is becoming more and more popular for lighting home aquariums and offers many benefits over traditional, fluorescent aquarium lighting. The benefits include higher efficiency, longer lifespan, lower heat production, more light control, and more customization.  Because LEDs are such a unique lighting technology, the terms used to describe and compare light fixtures can be overwhelming.  This week we will begin a 3 part series of posts discussing common lighting terms used to describe LED light fixtures, their performance, and how it pertains to the aquarium hobby.

The first two lighting terms we will dive into are Lumen and Lux.

Lumen: the SI unit of luminous flux, a measurement of the total amount of visible light emitted (light output) from a light source in all directions.  There are two important things to remember when reviewing lumen output of any aquarium light fixture.  First, luminous flux measurements reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light.  This means wavelengths of light the human eye is more sensitive to (greens and yellows) are “weighed” more heavily than those our eye is less sensitive to.  Although lumens are a good measurement of visible light we perceive, they may under-represent wavelengths of light that have other benefits in our aquariums, like those used for photosynthesis.  Secondly, although lumens accurately measure total light output, they do not tell us anything about how well the light fixture does at directing that light to where it is needed.  All the lumen output in the world does not help us unless it is being properly directed to where it is needed.

Lux: the SI unit of illuminance which is equal to 1 lumen per square meter, can also be considered luminous flux density.  Lux is a measure of how well a surface at a given distance from the light source is illuminated (light intensity).  Measuring lux or reviewing lux data at various distances from the light fixture will tell you how well the fixture directs the lumens it is producing into the target area.  In our situation the target area would be the footprint of our home aquarium.  Design features including the shape of the light fixture, distribution of the LEDs, and any secondary optics or reflectors the fixture uses will all impact lux measurements.

Next week we will discuss PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation), PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density), and the concept of photosynthetically usable radiation as it pertains to the quality of light produced by an LED light fixture.

View our collection of aquarium LED lighting.

Betta Fish Bubble Nests

betta fish bubble nest closeup

Has your male Betta fish ever blown a bubble nest? That can be a good sign that he is healthy and happy. Betta splendens, the common Betta, breed using a bubble nest that the male blows at the surface of the water. After the male fertilizes the egg, he scoops it up into his mouth and gently places the egg into the bubble nest.  The male Betta maintains and guards the nest until the egg hatches, and the fry becomes free-swimming.  Interestingly, many other Betta species reproduce using a mouth-brooding strategy. After the pair spawns, the male Betta holds the eggs in his mouth to protect them. He continues to hold the developing fry until they are free-swimming and large enough to be released. In some species the female Betta will even protect the male and help defend him from predators while his mouth is full!

betta fish bubble nest

Revive Your Aquarium

fish aquarium

During the winter months we spend more time indoors. Because of that, we typically reconnect with indoor hobbies.  It’s the perfect time of the year to give your favorite finned friend a well-deserved interior makeover.  Whether it’s adding new rocks, décor pieces or some live plants, your fish and family will appreciate it. I like to pull out my older artificial pants and replace them with new/different ones.  I then take the old plants and soak them in a mild bleach solution for a few days, dry them off, and store them for future use.  I may also add a new rock or piece of drift wood.  Reviving the inside of your aquarium will, almost always, revive the interest in your aquarium.

Send us pictures of your most recent interior makeover.  We will choose the best one and post the picture next week!  That person will receive some free product from Elive.  Send your pictures* to customerservice@elivepet.com along with your name and mailing address. You have until Jan. 23, 2015 at 5:00 CST to send us your pictures!

Aquarium and Fish Maintenance Part 3: Is Your Aquarium Equipment Working Properly?

benthochromis fish

What does it really take to keep your aquarium clean and your fish happy?   Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of watching and observing the fish in your aquarium and last week we talked about clean aquarium water.  This week we will talk about the importance of ensuring your equipment is working properly.

One of the biggest factors in keeping your fish happy and healthy is ensuring that the environment that they are in is stable and consistent.  Making sure that your aquarium equipment is operating properly is critical to your success.  Investing a few minutes a month to check and keep your pumps, filters, heaters and other equipment is well worth the effort and will help eliminate future problems.

A good aquarium heater is key a component in successful fish keeping.  Why? Most aquarium fish come from waters of warm, tropical environments.  The majority of aquarium fish prefer water temperatures above 72°F and 80°F.  At Elive we always try to keep our aquarium temperatures at 78°F.  We find at that temperature the fish are active, eat aggressively and have great color.  Find out what temperature the fish you are keeping prefer.  Some like water on the cool side of the gradient and some like it on the high side.  Not all aquarium fish are tropical species.  Goldfish are a cold water fish and do better when kept at lower temperatures.  Goldfish prefer water temperatures between 65°F – 72°F.  A heater may not be needed when keeping goldfish.

Monitor your temperature daily.  You can purchase an inexpensive thermometer and place it on the front of your aquarium.  We check our temperatures every day when feeding the fish.  We have an adjustable aquarium heater that allows us to increase or decrease our water temperature.  If the water is running cooler than 78°F, we turn up the heater slightly. The opposite is true too. If it’s too warm we turn it down.  Typically we don’t need to adjust the heater if the water is within 2° +/- of the desired 78°F temperature.  Keeping your fish below or above a recommended temperature will be stressful to your fish which can lead to a variety of health issues.

Keeping your filter operating properly is also very important.  Your filter helps remove unwanted chemicals and waste from your water and helps to provide water movement, current and also increase the oxygen in the water.  Visually check the water movement in your aquarium when you feed your fish.  Our fish like a lot of water movement and so we make sure the filter is pushing a good amount of water to keep them happy.  As the filter cartridges become clogged, they are not as efficient in removing waste and pushing water.  As the current and water slows in the aquarium it tells you it is time to change the filter cartridges.  Also, change the cartridges once a month.  This keeps your aquarium’s filter running properly.

There are a couple of other areas of the filter that you should clean on a regular basis.  Most filters have a water intake strainer.  This strainer keeps large particulates from entering the filter.  If this intake gets clogged, it will decrease the amount of water going through the filter. It’s a good idea to clean the intake when changing your filter cartridge but also check it if the current seems off in your aquarium.  Also clean the impeller and impeller housing in the filter.  Most aquarium power filters are powered by an impeller driving water pump.  The magnetic impeller and housing just need to be cleaned off a few times a year to keep the water pump working properly.  A few minutes, a soft towel, and a cotton swab is all you need.

The last thing we are going to talk about is lighting.  Most fish need light and we need light to see them.  That’s why most of us keep fish right?  We want to see their color, the way the move and act.  Like most animals, the sun coming up in the morning and setting in the evening helps us know the start and end of our day.  This is called a photoperiod and just like water temperature and water current, it is important that light exposure is fairly consistent in your aquarium.  Most fish need between 8 and 12 hours of daylight every day.  It’s also important that fish have a dark period too.  Some fish are active during the day and some fish are more active in the low light hours.  To keep your light consistent in your aquarium, keep your lights on a timer.  You can set it to your schedule, and it keeps the lighting consistent for your fish. One of the biggest, and most common, mistakes is keeping the aquarium light on either all of time or on way too long.  Too much light will stress your fish out and will also lead to excess algae or green water.  This is another reason to put your lights on a timer!

Here is a quick recap of what we talked about in this three part series to successful fish keeping:

  1. Observe Your Fish – if they are not acting right then something is probably wrong.
  2. Test Your Water – if something is wrong in your aquarium testing your aquarium water is a good first step in identifying the problem.
  3. Feeding – Feed your fish 2-3 small meals each day.  Watch them eat.  A healthy fish is an active eater.
  4. 25% Water Changes – Try to change 25% of your aquarium water once a month.
  5. Check Your Equipment – Make sure you heater, filter and lights are working properly.

Feel free to contact us or your local fish store for more questions!