Frequently Asked Questions

Compatibility & Stocking

1) How many fish can i keep in my tank ?

Short answer: A general guide is 2cm of fish for every litre of water in the tank,assuming that volume of water is being filtered 4 times per hour,and 25-30% of the water is being changed fortnightly.

Long answer: Please read the FAQ on filtration and water changes.

Remember to base all measurements on the manture/adult size of the fish.Most fish are sold as juveniles and will continue to grow,thus producing more waste.

Some fish will produce more waste than other fish or similar size,and this needs to be considered when stocking a tank.Goldfish,Axolotls,Turtles and Loricariid catfish(plecos and their relatives) are of the highest waste producing aquatic organisms.To factor this in your calulation,add an extra few centimitres to your estimated size of these fish.

Size and waste production are not the only factors that are necessary to consider when stocking a tank.Compatibility is of the utmost importance.Please read the FAQ on compatibility for more information.

2) Which fish can i keep together?

Short answer: There is no short answer. Have a chat with our staff and keep the follwing in mind.

Long Answer: Fish compatibility is determined by a number of factors. They are listed and explained here in the order of which they should be considered. Please remember however, that all requirements must be met in order for fish to truly be compatible.

*There must be enough room for both the fish in the tank. If you are purchasing a schooling fish, the whole school must be considered. The adult size of the fish is also important – they may fit now, but may not later.

*One fish must not be able to fit another in its mouth. Or that is where it will end up inb most cases

*One fish must not be significantly more agressive than another. This includes situations where one fish cannot be housed closely with conspecifics (fish of the same species, eg. Saratoga)

*Ideally, one fish must not have a boisterouse feeding behaviour that would prevent other fish from feeding. This is more easily avoided than other factors, by feeding the fish at differant end of the tank.

Filtration & Maintenance

1) What is the nitrogen cycle?

Short answer: A process in which the bacteria convert ammonia (from fish waste) into nitrite,and then into nitrate.

Long answer: Like all animals, fish excrete nitrogenous waste.Unlike terrestrial animals that excrete urea, fish excrete nitrogen as ammonia, which is highly toxic. in the wild, fish live in large bodies of water, thus the concentration of this waste is insignifficantly small. In the home aquarium however, this waste builds up quickly.

Fortunatly there is a bacteria that feeds on ammonia. However, this bacteria releases nitrite as a by-product, which is also toxic to fish. Again bacteria comes to the rescue, as there is another bacteria that feeds on nitrite.

This bacteria releases nitrate as a by-product. Nitrates are not toxic to the fish untill they and in excess of 40ppm. Nitrates are one of the main reasons why fortnightly water changes are required, as there are no bacteria that will absorb them.

These bacteria enter the aquarium from the air, or can be introduced from established aquariums. If starting an aquarium for the first time we recommend letting the system run for atleast 2 weeks before adding a small amount of fish. This gives the bacteria a chance to colonise your filter media. Filter media is a porous to allow maximum space for bacteria to develop.

Adding small amounts of fish at a time ensures that there is not more ammonia than the bacteria can process.

Actively growing plants will absorb ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, so these are a reccomended addition to a system if you accomodate them.

2) How often should I change water? And how much?

Short answer: 25-30% every fortnight. This assumes a maximum stocking density of 1cm of fish per litre of water and a filtration rate of 4x the volume of the tank per hour, though quality filter media.

There are a few more points to consider with water changing:

*Never clean the filter media in untreated tap water, as this will destroy the beneficial bacteria responsible for keeping your water clean. Shyphon some water from your tank, use this to clean the filter, then discard.

*With exception of Siamese Fighting Fish bowls that lack a filter, never change 100% of the water in the system. This can shock your filter bacteria and fish.

*Discus require larger more frequent water changes to thrive.

Large regular water changes (50% weekly) are usefull to control the spread of algae,as water changes remove nutrients from the water.

3) How much and what type of filtration do I need?

Short answer: At a stocking density of 1cm of fish per litre of water, you need enough filtration to change the volume of water in your tank 3-4 times per hour, through quality filter media. This assumes you change 25% of the water every fortnight.

Long Answer: The quantity of filtration, stocking density and water changes are very closely related.What you are trying to achieve is clean water, and each of these 3 factors affects the cleanliness of your water positively or negatively.If you increase the number of fish you have in the tank, the water becomes dirtier. Therefore, You will need more filtration, and/or more water changes to restore cleanliness. Large tanks with few fish will require less filtration. If you happen to have plenty of filtration in a large tank with few fish, you can perform water changes less frequently. Plants take up some fish waste, so a system with actively growing plants require less filtration than one without.

For smaller tanks (2ft or less) an internal or hang-on sponge filter will do the job nicely. For tanks 3ft or larger, we reccoment a cannister filter. These filters are external to the tank, are almost silent, require less frequent cleaning and allow a wider range of media options when compared to internal and hang-on filters. The only way you can be sure about how well your filtration and water change schedule is working , is to test your water. Either bring a sample in store for us to check free of charge,or invest in a test kit that tests for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

4) What temperature is ideal for tropical fish?

Short answer: 26°C

Long Answer: A range between 24°C and 28°C is tolerated by most species without complications. Discus fish will require a slightly higher temperature. If the temperature of the tank drops bellow 22°C tropical fish can experience immunosuppression, making them significantly more susceptable to disease. Chilling is a common factor involved in white spot outbreaks – should you notice white spot in your system, be sure to check the temperature of your tank. Temperature in excess of 32°C can be harmfull to fish. Bags or containers of ice can be floated in the tank to help reduce the temperature if required. Do not add ice directly to the tank unless it has been appropriattely treated with a dechlorinator. A consistant temperature is paramount. Do not let the temperature of the tank change by more than a few degrees per day, for example, by leaving a small unheated tank in the sun.

A submersible aquarium heater is the easiest method by which to warm a tank. Simply set the desired temperature and attach to the wall of the aquarium, ensuring it is completely bellow the water line. These heaters can be left in year round, as they turn off when the desired temperature is reached.

5) What heater wattage will be needed to heat my tank?

Short Answer: 1 watt for every litre of water is a general guide.

Long Answer: The wattage of the heater required depends largely on how far above room temperature the tank water needs to be. In most cases,1 watt per litre is an overestimation of what is actually required. However, an overestimation is no necessarily a bad thing, as there is nothing wrong with having a higher wattage heater than what is needed. This just means that the heater will be on for shorter periods of time.

Having the correct wattage is not the only important factor when it comes to heating a tank. The placement of the heater in the tank must be such that the heat is destributed more or less evenly around the tank. Positioning near filter outlets,powerheads or in sumps will ensure that your tank is heated evenly.

If you have fish that are particulary sensitive to temerature changes or are of significant value to you, you may want to consider using two heaters simultaneosly. While the heaters we stock at Aquarama are of high quality, there is always a chance, however slight, that a heater can fail and either hear the water too much, or not heat it at all. The risk of a heater failing increases with age and use. Using two heaters allows a fallback should one fail. If one heats too much, the other will turn off. If one does not heat, the other will take over, ensuring your fish do not suffer from temperature related problems.

Snails & Algae

1) How do I get rid of algae?

Short Answer: Reduce the amount of light and nutrients in the water.

Algae comes in a few varieties. Common in the new tanks is brown diatom algae. This can be scrubbed off the walls,but for best results introduce a loricariid catfish such as a bristlenose or pleco (they will eat it all)
Green spot algae grows on the glass, ornaments and slow growing plants,and is usually a result of too much light hitting that area.Reduce lighting to combat this algae

Black beard algae will bea eaten by young Siamese Flying Fox.

All algae growth is a result of a nutrient imbalance. Water changes and live plants can help to restore this balance. If you are dosing plant fertilizers, you may need to revise your fertilization schedule.

2) How do I get rid of snails?

Short Answer: Avoid over feeding,use a snail trap,use a fish safe pesticide and/or introduce a predator.

Long Answer: Snails are often introduced into the aquarium accidentaly, by hitch-hiking on plants, ornaments and driftwood. They then tend to reproduce in large numbers and quickly become an eyesore. Snails require a food source, so reducing the amount of food you feed your fish will help to slow the reproduction rate of the snails, but will not eliminate them entirely.

The quickest, most effective and straightforward solution to eliminate snails is to add a proprietry snail product to the water. However this will also kill other invertebrates that you may want to keep, such as apple snails or shrimp

A more innocuos method is to use a snail trap. These traps. when baited with food, will attract large amounts of snails. The unit can then be removed and cleaned to be rebaited for later use.

The preffered method of snail control is to introduce a predator to the snails. Tyhe clown loach is ever popular due to its otherwise peacefull nature and striking colours. Other members of the loach family are also usefull such as the Pakistani or YoYo loach, and the dwarf chain loach. Kuhli loaches may eat a very small amount of snails of smaller snails and are not as effective as the other species.

To avoid getting snails in your tank, it is reccomended to quarantine your new plants.

3) The water in my tank has gone cloudy/green...

Short Answer: Turn off the light. Drastically reduce feeding. Increase the frequency of water changes. Check the filter.

Long Answer: This cloudy green water is aptly refered to as “green water”, and is a result of a drastic increase in the amount of algal cells living in the water column. This is a free floating type of algae, differant to the attached types, but the same control strategies apply.

Reduce the amount of nutrients in the water by drastically reducing feeding. Stopping lighting for a few days will also help. Change 25-50% of the water every 3-7 days to reduce nutrients in the water column.

Adding activated carbon or purigen to the filtration system will also help to reduce the cloudiness of the water.

Do not be concearned about the health of the fish unless they are showingt signs of distress,indicating a problem beyond the green water. Green water is largely an aesthetic issue. The most importnant thing to remember is that these things take time to fix, so be sure you do not ruin your system by being too hasty.

Fish Care

1) What should I feed my fish?

Short Answer: Feed a high quality granulated food as the staple diet,with weekly feedings or frozen and/or live food.

Long Answer: As with most animals, a varied nutritious diet is the key to longevity. While most fish can live for many years on simple dry flake food, you can enhance the life span, colour and general appearance of your fish by simply feeding them a range of foods.

For the vast majority of fish, a range of live food with the addition of a quality dry food supplement is the best possible diet. Finding a range of live food isnt always practicle, so bellow are a few suggested feeding regimes;

*Alternate between dy and frozen food daily, and feed live food once or twice a month.

*Feed dry food through the week and frozen or live food on the weekend.

*Feed flake food with the occasional live feed.

In most cases fish need to be fed a plentiful diet in order to breed.

2) How often/much should I feed them ?

Short Answer: Once or twice a day. If feeding twice, feed half as much as at each feed. Feed as much as they will eat in 30 seconds.

Long Answer: Fish compatibility is determined by a number of factors. They are listed and explained here in the order of which they should be considered. Please remember however, that all requirements must be met in order for fish to truly be compatible.

*There must be enough room for both the fish in the tank. If you are purchasing a schooling fish, the whole school must be considered. The adult size of the fish is also important – they may fit now,but may not later.

*One fish must not be able to fit another in its mouth.Or that is where it will end up inb most cases

*One fish must not be significantly more agressive than another.This includes situations where one fish cannot be housed closely with conspecifics (fish of the same species,eg. Saratoga)

*Ideally,one fish must not have a boisterouse feeding behaviour that would prevent other fish from feeding.This is more easily avoided than other factors,by feeding the fish at differant end of the tank


1) What fish will destroy my plants?

Short Answer: Most african cichlids, silver dollars and buenos aires tetras.

Long Answer: Fish with herbivorous habits are more likely to make a mess of your plants than those what preffor meatier foods. However, many fish will graze on plants a little without doing enough damage to destroy the plant. Livebearers, barbs and goldfish will nibble on aquatic plants,but this usually is not and issue.

Plants struggle a lot more in the presence of fish such as silver dollars, or buenos aires tetras. Sometimes these fish will avoid tougher plants such as anubias and java fern, but there are no guarantees.

Plants rarely fare will in african cichlid tanks for two reasons. The water conditions are not suitable for most plants, and african cichlids like to rearrange the tank, digging up the deloping root systems of the plants. Some have success keeping established anubias and cryptocorne species in african cichlid tanks, as these are tougher plants that can tolerate a range of conditions.

2) What are the benefits of live plants?

Short Answer: They will absorb fish waste,oxygenate the water and give a natural feel to the tank.

Long Answer: Live plants perform a variety of functions in the aquarium, not least of which is their decorative role. They provide a source of nourishment for fish,as well as providing a hiding place to make fish feel secure,thus reducing stress. Their surfaces provide an anchoring point for beneficial bacteria,which will help filter the water. The plants themselves will also absorb ammonia,nitrite and nitrate created by fish waste, which means a much healtheir environment for your fish.

While plants will drop dead leaves from time to time, these small fragments of organic matter disintegrate into “detritus” which is an important food source for microorganisms that can be fed on by baby fish, shrimp and other small aquatic life.

Nothing beats live plants in creating a natural riverine feel to an aquarium, and this is usually the reason plants are selected.They also present some interisting challenges, as some plants are tricky to grow, and most are hard to grow well.

3) What do I need to keep a lush planted tank?

Short Answer: Nutrient rich substrate,quality lighting, a fertilization schedule,water changes and prefferably carbon dioxide injection.

Long Answer: Keeping a densely planted aquarium growing well is a challenge, but one that is more easily met with the right investment of time and equipment. To grow well, plants need a few things:

*Light (intensity and duration is dependant upon plant species, T5 lights are preferred)

*Nutrients (mainly Nitrogen, Potassium & Phosphorus, with Iron also being important in some species)

*A fine grain, non-compactible, nutrient rich substrate(1-3mm gravel is ideal)

*Carbon Dioxide (DIY kits avaliable, or CO2 cylinders can be used)

The interactions between all these factors are complex, and vary wildly depending on the species and type of aquarium kept. Do not hesitate to ask us about how you can turn your aquarium into an underwater garden.

4) Is it okay to prune aquatic plants?

Short Answer: Yes

Long Answer: While it is mostly okay to prune aquatic plants,some plants will tolerate this better than others. The removal of dead leaves is always a good idea, as it stops the addition of organic waste to the water column, however, when we consider pruning, we are concearned with cutting the live parts of the plant.

Stem plants, such as Wisteria ,Cabomba, Elodea and Milfoil, can regrow roots from the cutting if you choose to plant them again. Alternatively, they can be discarded and the plant will grow from the top of the recent cut.

Rhizomatous plants such as anubias and java fern, can be cut along the rhizome to seperate them into two individual plants. However one must take care to ensure that the plant has reached a significant size before seperating it into two, as seperation of a small plant can stunt its growth.

Deep rooting species such as amazon swords and crypts can be pruned back, but in most cases the stem which was cut will die back, and a entire new stem and leaf will form. Plants such as val can be trimmed back with ease. No new plants will grow from the cutting, but the original plant will grow back what you have removed.

Plants that grow from runners such as val and amazon swords, can be detached from these runners if necessary. However, we recomend waiting as long as possible to do this, as those runners are providing nutrition from the already established plant.

5) How long should my lights be on for?

Short Answer: Photoperiod should be around 12-14 hours.

Long Answer: While 12-14 hours is the reccomended average,this should be adjusted in response to algae growth. If you are noticing a significant amount of algae growth,reduce the lighting period by a few hours.

Algae growth is also a symptom of out of date bulbs. Fluorescent tubes need to be replaced every 6-12 months as the amount of usable plant light they emit degrades quickly over this time. If you are using and old tube on your plants, they may be experiencing functional darkness. That is, although they are under a light, the light is not of the right nature for photosynthesis.


1) My Siamese fighting fish is not eating what should i do?

Short Answer: Provide your fighting fish with a heater. Tempt him with some live food. Check for diseases and treat as needed.

Long Answer: This problem is regularly encountered in winter, when the fighting fish is cooler than normal. Fish areectothermic/poikilothermic or simply cold-blooded, meaning that they lack the ability to regulate their body temperature and will be forced to match the temperature of their environment.

Metabolic processes slow down as the temperature becomes cooler. This means your fightingh fish has less capacity for movement, and is consuming less energy. Because of this, it is unlikely to want to eat, as it does not need more energy.

Being this cold is not entirely healthy for a fighting fish. They are a tropical fish and do benefit from heating during winter. Heating your fighting fish will make him less prone to disease and increase his lifespan.

If the temperature is not the issue, he could be diseased.Check for abnormal signs, such as lost scales, fin damadge or strange growths.

2) My fish are covered in white dots, what should I do?

Short Answer: Your fish have white spot disease. Go out and grab some white spot midication ASAP.

Long Answer: Do not waste too much time reading the long answer now, the quicker you get onto this problem the better chance your fish have for survival. In the short term your fish will need to be treated for this protozoan disease. Raising the temperature of the tank by a few degrees will decrease the lifecycle of the parasite (causing them to drop off the fish), but if there is no treatment in your water, your fish will become reinfected.

Once you have the medication, use it as directed. You will need to increase the frequency of your water changes (before or after treatment) and gravel vacuuming is a must. Cleaning the gravel will remove the cysts of the white spot parasite, reducing the numbers of the parasite in the aquarium.

White spot disease is usually present in most aquaria, but will not easily infect healthy fish. If large numbers of your fish suddenly become infected with the disease, something may have gone wrong in your system. Check filters and heaters and get your water tested.

The use of a quarantine tank can help prevent introducing this disease into your aquarium. 

3) My fish has a fuzzy looking growth on it, what should I do?

Short Answer: Your fish has a fungal or bacterial infection. You need to medicate it.

Long Answer: As with most diseases the sooner treatment commences, the better chance the fish will live. Methylene blue is a good starter antifungal treatment and this should be your first point of call.

If this fails to have an effect, the problem may be bacterial, thus antibiotics are a better solution. Try to isolate the fish from uninfected fish, and treat it in a tank of its own to avoid exposing your filter bacteria to the medication, as it will likely kill them.