Category Archives: Maintenance

Aquarium Test Kits You Can Trust – by ELOS

Like me, have you been disappointed with aquarium water test kits in the past? It can be very frustrating when you have spent good money on a test kit that deliver inconsistent and varying results. Some of the biggest complaints with test kits is they are hard to read, results vary, and performing the test is difficult.

ELOS has remedied these common problems. ELOS Water Analysis kits are test kits you can rely on. ELOS test kits are manufactured and tested to standards that are unparalleled in this industry. They use the highest quality reagents that are non toxic, and deliver accurate results every time.

The following test kits are recommend by Aquarium Gardens:

Here’s what makes ELOS test kits different:

Calibrated droppers: ELOS bottles are designed to provide a consistent drop size, which is a key element in testing – regardless of who is squeezing the bottle the drop remains consistent. Many less expensive brands will rely on the cheapest possible bottles, syringes and tips that can easily skew the test results.

While all chemicals should be considered dangerous and handled accordingly, ELOS uses the highest quality reagents that are non-toxic. All ELOS boxes, instructions and reagents are clearly labelled along with childproof packaging – that amazingly is not found in some of our competitors who base their kits largely on toxic chemicals!
Of course, it is more costly to use such a high grade of reagents, use proper packaging and labels, but we feel it is necessary. In some kits you will even notice a raised label for people who are vision impaired.

Validation of each Reagent batch: using NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology) certified samples. While some may claim to use, ‘lab quality components’ in their kits, ELOS validates each batch of reagents using these NIST certified samples.

Careful batch management: all chemical test kits are susceptible to damage from extreme temperatures.  ELOS carefully ships and stores our test kits before they ship to the retailer or final customer. This is a vital step that often is neglected.

Written and illustrated instructions along with professionally calibrated colour charts (when needed) make it easy for beginners through to experts, to use the kit correctly. Expiration dates, batch and lot numbers in every kit and every reagent, allow us to carefully track – and when needed – assist customers with questions about their kit.

Nitrate ELOS test kit

 

For these reasons, we would not recommend any other aquarium test kit, ELOS is the way to go for accurate and precise results. For the full range (now 10% off until 30th November 2015) click here.

Planting your Aquarium Plants - How to Guide

How to plant your Aquarium plants

One of the most common questions we get is ‘How do I go about planting my aquarium plants?’ Here’s how…

So you’ve received your plants in top condition from Aquarium Gardens, now what should you do? Many people who are new to aquarium plants wonder how to go about planting them in their aquarium. This step by step guide will advise you how to prepare your plants for planting in the aquarium.

  1. Plants from Aquarium Gardens are safe for use with all fish, shrimp and snails and can be added straight into your aquarium. No pesticides have been used in the production or holding of our plants, so there is no need to wash them under tap water nor is there a need to soak them in a bucket of water.
  2. Before adding any plants to your aquarium, remove the plastic pot and tear away the rockwool from the roots. The rockwool is used by the plants to root in whilst it grows. Once the plant reaches your aquarium there is no need for the rock wool anymore. You can remove the rockwool by hand or by using a pair of planting tweezers to aid the process.
  3. You can now split the plant into several plants, using scissors for smaller, delicate plants such as Hemianthus Cuba. Plants such as Cryptocoryne and Echinodorus can be gently torn apart easily by hand. Depending on the plant you can get 4-8 plants from each pot.
  4. If the plant has large root structures, trim the roots down using a pair of scissors. 2-3cm of root length is fine. Trimming roots also encourages new healthy root growth which helps the plant get off to a great start in your aquarium.
  5. Remove any yellowing/dead leaves. This will ensure dead leaves do not decay inside your aquarium and encourages new leaf growth.
  6. Lastly, push the plant into your substrate to bury the roots (using a pair of planting tweezers will help, especially with small fiddly plants). Give each plant  room to grow by spacing plants out. For smaller plants, space them about 3-4cm apart. For larger plants such as Echinodorus, you may need to leave extra room as they can grow quite big.

Water Changes – More important than you think

I have been asked this a lot recently… “why do we have to perform water changes in our planted aquariums?”

Well, we all know it has to be done…but here’s the reason why in a nutshell: It greatly reduces your chance of algae and increases your chance of success at growing plants!

Now here’s the long story. As your plants grow they use many elements such as light energy, CO2 and nutrients to fuel growth. Just like all living things that need fuel to live, there are always waste products. Plants are no different and the quicker they grow the more waste they produce (makes sense right?). This waste MUST be removed somehow: Enter water changes. In an enclosed environment such as an aquarium, all these excess waste products need to be removed somehow and the only way of doing this is changing the water with fresh clean water from your tap. Remember to always de-chlorinate your water by letting it stand for 24 hours, this will also bring it to room temperature (important for your fish!).

The rate at which we need to carry out water changes is determined by how quick your plants grow. What do plants need to grow? Light, CO2 and nutrients. The more we add the quicker they grow. The quicker they grow the more waste they produce…and therefore more frequent water changes are required! This is why in high tech set-ups with high light and high levels of fertilization, frequent water changes become more crucial.

Why do we have to remove of this waste anyhow? The waste that plants produce soon build up over time and are food for algae. The higher the concentration of these pollutants the more algae will thrive. It’s important to note that you cannot actually see these pollutants, you just need to know THEY ARE THERE. With no escape in such an enclosed environment such as an aquarium, these pollutants have nowhere to go unless we perform water changes.

Try conducting 40-50% water changes per week. This will effectively dilute your aquarium water with fresh clean water, thus decreasing the concentration of pollutants. You plants will thank you for it, trust me! In highly lit aquariums, twice weekly water changes are a good idea (more light = faster growth = more waste).

On a final note: I further recommend carrying out a minimum of 2 water changes per week during the first 3-4 weeks of a newly planted aquarium. Your aquarium is yet to mature and plants have yet to settle in. There is a lot more waste produced during this initial stage, so carry out more water changes until things have settled in. Please contact me on info@aquariumgardens.co.uk if you have any questions, or leave me a comment 🙂

 

Aquascaping Maintenance & Care

 

 

A few weeks ago we looked at what to think about when setting up an aquascape (see blog post: Aquascaping – The Basics). Focal points, plants and positioning all play an important part in building an aquascape.

Now we look at how this aquascape has grown in and developed, and we need to decide what care is required to maintain the overall development.

Aquascape at 5 weeks:
Aquascaping with Carpet plantsAs you can see the plants have started to carpet and fill in the gaps. It might take another 4-6 weeks for this scape to be fully grown in. Patience is also required in aquascaping!

These plants haven’t just been left to grow on their own. Oh no, they wouldn’t have got this far on their own! The ‘Aquascaper’ must look after and care for his plants in order for them to grow how he wishes. Fundamentally, plants need light, co2 and nutrients to grow. It is down to the aquascaper to provide the correct amount.

Light 

When it comes to light, you must first look at the plants you are intending to grow, and how much maintenance you think you can handle! The plants in this aquascape are keen for a medium to high level of lighting (0.50 Watts per litre +) in order to grow and carpet the way we want them to. To little and the Glossostigma & Hemianthus Callitrichoides in this aquascape will grow upwards towards the light. Give these plants enough light and it will crawl along the substrate and create a carpet just like we want them to.

 

The Aquascaper can also create problems. Using medium to high levels of lighting requires more water changes, pruning, co2 injection and fertilization. The high light level is effectively accelerating the rate of growth, and subsequently increases the needs for co2 and nutrients. We also increase the risk of algae forming! Therefore, the aquascaper is required to spend more time maintaining their scape.

Want a scape with less maintenance? Reduce your lighting. This will reduce the need for co2, nutrients and water changes. With lower lighting, you are slowing the rate of growth, and as a result, reducing the need for co2 and nutrients. There are many plants that thrive under lower lighting. Many Cryptocoryne, Echinodorous, Java Fern and Vallisneria can all do well under lower lighting. Do your homework when choosing plants. We have come up with a simple rating system to help you choose the right plants for your desired scape. All the ratings can be found here : Plant Difficulty Ratings. All of our plants are given a rating to help you make the right choice.

Week 6 pic1

Co2

In this aquascape co2 is a requirement in order to meet the plants demands for growth. Medium to high light requires co2 injection as the higher light levels have accelerated growth rates which require more carbon to complete the photosynthesis process. Should the Co2 levels be too low, algae is given the chance to thrive, rather than the plants. Algae has several survival properties that plants don’t have. Algae can survive without the three essential elements plants need: light, nutrients and co2. Supply all these in the correct amount and your plants will thrive, and algae will stay away.

Planning a lower light aquarium might suggest co2 is not required, but is still recommend for healthy growth. An alternative is to supply carbon in a liquid form from a bottle. It requires a daily dose and is best suited to ‘lower tech’ planted aquariums that require less carbon for growth. Take a look at our shop for more information on Liquid Carbon.

Week 6 pic5

 

The aquascape above has not come without it’s problems. Algae in the early stages is very much a problem. It’s especially difficult in a high light aquarium such as this one. A simple way to reduce your lighting intensity is to raise your light higher above the surface of the water. This can help control the rate of growth and prevent stress to the plants when the aquarium is given to much light. Algae did appear in this aquascape, about 10 days in. Raising the light helped eradicate the algae, along with many water changes. The light currently sits around 30 cm above the water surface.

Water Changes

Probably the most undesirable task, water changes have to be done. More so in the early stages, for this reason: organic waste. Organic waste is the build up of nutrients that are not required, mainly ammonia. This occurs from plant decay, substrate, wood, fish food and fish waste. In the early life of your aquarium where it is yet to establish enough bacterial colonies to cope with this organic waste, algae thrive from it. A solution? Water Changes. Many water changes will effectively dilute the organic waste.. We recommend doing as many water changes as you can during the first 4 weeks. As guide try 2 weekly changes of 50%. Over the next 4-6 weeks, beneficial bacteria build up will help deal with ammonia by completing the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle converts the unsafe ammonia into a much safer nitrate. Less ammonia = less chance of an algae outbreak.

 

If you require any further help with your planted aquarium, or thinking of setting on up for the first time, feel free to contact us with any questions you have.

 

Planted Aquarium Maintenance

As a guide, we suggest following these daily, weekly and monthly aquarium plant maintenance routines:

Daily Maintenance


1. Dose fertilizers & liquid carbon. Missing your daily dose of liquid carbon will mean your plants are not getting an even supply of carbon. Fluctuating levels can cause algae.

2. Remove any dead leaves or plant matter. Their breakdown will promote algae growth.

3. Check your water temperature. Any faults with your heater could mean your temperature drops which could harm fish & plants.

Weekly Maintenance


1. Conduct a water change of a minimum 50% each week. This prevents a build up of waste products, which algae thrives on. During the first 2-3 weeks you should be changing the water 2-3 times per week to reduced algae outbreaks during the most fragile stages of your aquarium, where your tank is yet to stabilize.

2. Check your aquarium equipment is working properly (heater, filter, light timer, co2 injection etc.). Any faults can disrupt the stability of your planted aquarium.

3. Clean glass, hardscape and plant leaves. If you are encountering a large build up of algae, seriously consider reducing your lighting, increasing your co2 and increasing the amount of water changes. Cleaning algae out of the tank is only a short term solution, stopping the cause of algae is a long term solution.

4. Trim your plants. It is important to trim regularly to encourage new growth, remove dead/old leaves & prevent any plants from being blocked from light. It is also your chance to be creative and create a planted aquarium to be proud of! Re-plant any cuttings by removing lower leaves, snipping the roots and replanting into your substrate.

Monthly Maintenance


1. Clean out your filters. Give your filter media a good clean, it is often best to do this in aquarium water you have taken out from a water change. Cleaning your filter will remove organic waste that has built up over time in your filter. Do not worry about killing the beneficial bacteria that’s in your filter, there will still be plenty left to deal with your tanks natural eco-system.

2. Clean pipes, lily pipes and any other equipment inside/outside your tank. Presentation is everythin