Continue adding drops of reagent until the sample turns a stable yellow color. Each drop added since the beginning of the test represents 1°dH.

Continue adding drops of reagent until the sample turns a stable yellow color. Each drop added since the beginning of the test represents 1°dH.

Dechlorinated tap water 15°dGH

Calcium-based substrate or rocks

Reverse osmosis Dechlorinated tap water 0°dGH water 15°dGH

that may alter one or the other but not both. Tap water also contains heavy metals, chlorine, and, in many cases, chloramine, which releases chlorine over time. Remove these substances before you use the water by adding a simple water conditioner. Then leave the water to warm up a little before using it for water changes, as this will help to minimize temperature shocks to both fish and plants.

To reduce metals and pollutants, and to soften water, tap water can be mixed with rainwater or reverse osmosis water. Rainwater collected in water casks should always be preflltered through a chemical medium such as carbon to remove any dangerous substances. In most cases, collected rainwater is safe to use directly in the aquarium, but it can easily become contaminated by atmospheric pollutants or from objects collected in household gutters.

Altering water quality

In a stable aquarium environment and with a suitable source of water, altering various aspects of water quality should not be a regular requirement. Over time however, buffering capacity and hardness will drop and pollutants such as nitrates may rise. In most cases, plants will remove pollutants, and water changes will replenish carbonates, keeping hardness and buffering capacity at suitable levels. Occasionally, the levels of pollutants such as ammonia and nitrite may rise quickly as a result of unexpected (and often unnoticed) fish deaths, and these will require immediate attention. If a filter is not working for more than a few hours, the same thing can happen. In these cases, the best approach is to carry out a number of small water changes and cut back on fish feeding levels for a short period.

Altering the levels of hardness and pH is a little more difficult and should be carried out before the water is added to the aquarium. Raising hardness and pH is relatively easy and can be done by adding proprietary chemical treatments or certain rocks and substrates. Lowering pH and hardness is more difficult, as it involves removing substances from the water rather than adding them. One of the best methods is to dilute the tank water with R.O. water (see page 27). Another way is to use chemical treatments, but apply these with care, as sudden changes can be damaging to both fish and plants.

Dechlorinated tap water 15°dGH

Right: Tap water contains chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals, which should be removed by means of a dechlorinator before the water is added to the aquarium.

Calcium-based trace elements

Creating soft water

For soft water, mix reverse osmosis or filtered rainwater with dechlorinated tap water. Add a pH buffer to retain stability.

Reverse osmosis Dechlorinated tap water 0°dGH water 15°dGH

Calcium-based substrate or rocks pH buffer

Creating hard water

Use calcium-based substrates and rockwork with dechlorinated tap water. Also use calcium-based trace element additives.


The right substrate

In the rivers and streams in which many aquatic plants grow, the substrates vary depending on the environmental and geological conditions of the river system and the local area. Aquatic plants are often found in sandy, muddy, or gravel beds. An important point to bear in mind is that in virtually all natural areas the substrate is usually warmer than the surrounding environment. This happens because the heat from the sun is absorbed and retained by the substrate. The difference may be less than one degree but it is enough to create convection currents between the substrate and the water. These currents slowly and continually move water down through the substrate (where it warms

Below: The roots of these plants will extend deep into the heavy substrate at the bottom of this temperate pond, holding the plants in position and collecting vital nutrients.

iiSffii up slightly) and back up into the main water body as it cools. As water passes through the substrate it takes nutrients with it, giving the roots access to a continual supply of nutrients.

In many streams and rivers, there are certain areas where plants grow together in groups, while just a short distance away there are no plants at all. This happens because natural springs occur along the river or stream system and water from other areas enters through the ground. Most of these springs are hidden from view and may carry only a trickle of water, but the water is rich in organic and mineral nutrients, which the plants quickly absorb through their roots.

The dense muddy substrate found in many places provides an ideal anchoring medium that holds plants firmly in position. In natural conditions, the roots may grow far wider and deeper than they possibly could in the aquarium. When keeping some larger plants, such as many of the larger Echinodorus species, take into account the fact that their roots will quickly spread and literally "take over" the aquarium substrate if allowed to do so.

Substrates in the aquarium

In an average aquarium, the substrate is likely to be a fairly straightforward affair, usually a simple covering of pea gravel. Plants use the substrate not only as a place to root, but also as a source of nutrients and, in some cases, a medium through which to reproduce. The root systems of aquatic plants vary between species, but all are highly evolved to work effectively in a given natural environment. Most of these environments are nothing like those found in an aquarium with a simple pea gravel substrate. Difficulties encountered


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The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The word aquarium originates from the ancient Latin language, aqua meaning water and the suffix rium meaning place or building. Aquariums are beautiful and look good anywhere! Home aquariums are becoming more and more popular, it is a hobby that many people are flocking too and fish shops are on the rise. Fish are generally easy to keep although do they need quite a bit of attention. Puppies and kittens were the typical pet but now fish are becoming more and more frequent in house holds. In recent years fish shops have noticed a great increase in the rise of people wanting to purchase aquariums and fish, the boom has been great for local shops as the fish industry hasnt been such a great industry before now.

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