Heating Aquariums – Go Inline…

I thought I would touch upon a post that one of our contributors Luis made when he wrote about heaters for planted aquariums. They’re an essential price of equipment and something that you really need to rely on too. After investing in a lot of your hard earned cash on aquatic plants and fish the last thing you want is your heater to let you down. So first you have to invest in a quality heater. That’s easy and this particular blog is about the Hydor External Heater - a quality Italian product made with a patent that is brilliant.

The Hydor External Heaters as you’ve probably guessed sits on your external piping so after the water has passed through the filter, it then runs through the heater and back into your aquarium (see image below).

They’re not the smallest heater in the world by any stretch at approximately 30cm x 6cm x 8cm but they are the only external heater that I have ever seen. With Nature Aquariums, keeping as much equipment out of the tank is the goal and this products is perfect in that respect. Years ago, heaters were always on the inside and you had to try and hide them behind plants or other equipment but no longer is this the case.

Where should you place it?

You can fit your heater anywhere on the outflow pipe of your external filter piping. When fitting it, try and keep it in your carbinet – this ensures everything looks neat and tidy and also if you ever spilt water from your aquarium, it wouldn’t get wet.

So it all sounds pretty good right? What’s the catch?

Well there’s not really any catch. They do need to be kept at a minimum angle of 45 degrees due to the heating element inside (which is where the secret lies). If you try and run the heater at 90 degrees the unit will over heat and then stop working – this is where stories on the internet have popped up and hobbyists have kept them lying down. If you keep it at a minimum of 45 degree you won’t have an issue. Ideally you want it vertical – this is the best way to heat your water up as it stays in contact with the heating element for longer and therefore keeps your water at a more stable temperature.

Accuracy

The Hydor External Heaters are the most accurate out of all heaters on the market. You can set the temperature to half a degrees accuracy. Perfect for anyone who specifically wants a certain temperature.

What size piping?

There are three models available today. 12mm 200w, 12mm 300w, 16mm 300w. All operate in the same way and dimension wise almost the same.

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Curved Scissors For Planted Aquariums

I stumbled across a superb video that really demonstrates why certain types of scissors are better than others in the planted aquarium and this YouTube clip is a great example.

The scissors that are used in this clip look very similar to the Easy Aqua Curved Scissors. Notice that they are not actually curved but are more angled which I think is more effective anyway. Here’s a few points to consider when investing in scissors:

  1. First you need to make sure they are made of stainless steel otherwise they will become rusty very quickly and won’t operate as you want. Rusty scissors need to be discarded and you don’t want to put them into your aquarium.
  2. They need to be sharp. Poor quality scissors are often cheap to buy in the first place but also need to be replaced quickly (false economy). They become blunt and simply bend when you try to cut a thicker stem.
  3. They need to be comfortable in your hand – you may be using them a lot in a CO2 infused planted aquarium. Better to invest in a quality pair if this is a concern.

Apart from that there’s not really too much more to write about the subject. If you want the same style as was used in the YouTube clip then the Easy Aqua Curved Scissors are the pair for you.

Scissors for the planted aquarium

CO2 Bubble Counter

Bubble counters play an important role when you’re running a CO2 infused planted aquarium and for good reason too. It’s a great way of knowing how much CO2 you are pumping into your aquarium.Of course we still suggested drop checkers with bromo blue are the ultimate solution for understanding CO2 levels, but bubble counters still play an important role.

But like so many things these days you have lots of choice so which is the best?

The answer really depends on what you are running – are you pressurised or are you using yeast to produce your CO2? If you’re using the latter then you can probably stick with the bubble counter that came with your CO2 set but if you’re running pressurised then consider the Easy Aqua Bubble Counter & Check Valve. Pressurised systems which operate with 2 bar pressure place a lot of strain on equipment which is manufactured to lower quality levels. Non return valves for example will easily pop off their CO2 tubing or just not functions as they should and can leak (normally when you’re not at home…). At the opposite end of the spectrum with quality equipment you know it will do the job which it should. The Easy Aqua Bubble Counter & Check Valve falls into the category of quality. It allows CO2 tubing to be attached securely to the bubble counter and the screw ends make sure that there is no way that the tubing will pop off. So it offers piece of mind more than anything else. In addition, because the non return valve is immediately below the bubble counter there is less water lost over time. It’s common for water to migrate south with bubble counters but this isn’t possible with the Easy Aqua Bubble Counter & Check Valve.

How to fill it up?

Filling this unit is simple and we recommend using normal tap water. All you need to do is undo the top piece and hold it under your tap until the clear section fills up (fill it all the way up). Once you’re done, keep it upright then attach your CO2 tubing onto the unit, then onto your CO2 diffuser.

Final Perk

The final benefit of the Easy Aqua Bubble Counter & Check Valve is that you can attach CO2 tubing onto it without the risk of damage. Glass units can break easily especially under pressure but you won’t have this concern here. For the above reasons we have great confidence in recommending the Easy Aqua Bubble Counter & Check Valve and it can be used in any pressurised CO2 system without any problems.

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Three aquarium items that you should not get second hand

With the economic downturn we are all looking for savings to be made, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

One is that looking for savings is a good move, the other is that cutting corners where it involves safety is not.

Below I list three items that you should get brand new, they usually go wrong quickly and have a high fail rate.

Heater

Why shouldn’t you get an aquarium heater second hand? With so many offers online for second hand items, the aquarium heater is one that you should get new. Many aquarium heaters fail, either they get stuck on the one position or they fail to heat up the water. Both will kill all your livestock.

Many fish keepers spend hundreds if not thousands on their tank, on substrate, lights, rocks, fish, etc, yet many people do not think twice about buying a heater second hand.

Aquarium water treatment or conditioners

Do you actually know what is inside a open bottle? Would you buy juice from a shop if the bottle was already open? Same with aquarium products. Don’t bother with half used bottles. First many products have a use by date from the date they were open, and you do not know when they were open, secondly you do not know what else is mixed on it, and last the savings you may made will not matter if something goes wrong. Buy from a reputable shop and have peace of mind.

External Filters

Many filters rubber rings have a usable life, same as it happens to your car, many items wear off after a while, and they need to be replaced. Would you like to come home and have half the tank water on the sitting room floor?

Which CO2 Diffuser?

There are so many diffusers on the market these days it’s probably a hard decision as to which one you should use. The problem is there’s not a great deal between them so this makes your decision even harder. So I’ve decided to focus on just one – it looks great and functions well too and it’s called the AE Design 150L Spiral Glass CO2 Diffuser.

What’s special about this product?

Delightfully manufactured it looks super in the flesh. The ceramic plate is about 2cm wide and made of sufficient quality to allow for small CO2 bubbles to pass through and then circulate around the aquarium. The overall height is about 10cm. What really works well for this product is the spiral which always captures hobbyists eyes. The CO2 bubbles pass from your regulator into the diffuser and then pass up through the glass spiral and this in itself becomes mesmerizing.  It’s hard to take your eyes off it…

As you can see, because of the spiral, it doubles up as a bubble counter which means you need one less piece of equipment. This glass diffuser is suitable for aquariums up to 150L but if your tank was a little larger, I don’t think it would cause a problem. Similarly if you have a smaller aquarium and are particularly fond of the spiral (it is nice isn’t it) then you could still use this diffuser. Remember the lower the pressure on your regulator, the less bubbles come out of a ceramic plate. The higher the pressure and bubbles come out of them everywhere.

Keeping diffusers clean:

Cleaning glass diffusers is easy – algae builds up on the plate every couple of weeks so to keep them fresh, soak them in a neat bleach solution over night, and then in the morning give them a thorough rinse under tap water for about a minute making sure it’s nice and clean (and bleach free).

For our range of diffusers, follow this link.

Flow Rate In A Planted Aquarium

I’ve written about this before and no doubt I will continue to write about it in the future. Flow rate in a CO2 infused aquarium needs to be high – it has to be in order to move around the fertilisers and CO2. What you want to see is your plants moving, swaying in the flow and if they are all doing that, then you’ve probably nailed it. But actions speak better than words. Check this short YouTube clip out by Mark Evans – notice the powerful flow rate and also the excellent plant growth (the fertiliser he uses is Tropica Plant Nutrition+)

What’s the flow rate like in your planted aquarium? Anything like Mark’s?

Contribute To Our Blog?

Are you a writer or maybe you just fancy doing some writing on the subject of planted aquariums? We are opening up our blog to hobbyists just like you. With the importance of fresh content on blogs, we are inviting anyone who fancies writing on the subject of planted aquariums. It can be about anything you like but must revolve around this wonderful hobby. Perhaps you have had some experiences you would like share with others or maybe you are a long term hobbyist and want to say a few words about how keeping a planted aquarium has changed over the years.

We believe this planted aquarium blog is the most active in the world which makes it pretty special. It also means you get high readership which is a bonus too! We’re not committing you to anything though, you can write when ever you like and will be provided log in details so you become a Contributor. The only aspect that needs to be considered is commercial sensitivity – you can’t say certain products are rubbish or don’t work for example.

If you are interested in any way, leave me a comment and I’ll get right back to you :)

T5 Lighting For Small Aquariums

Small planted aquariums can be difficult to illuminate and as a result some tanks will be harder work than they should be. Getting the right sort of lighting first time round will save you time, money and hassle, so this blog post should direct you to the right place.

In the past your choice of lighting was slim for nano aquariums – some had units built into them which were nearly always insufficient (especially for growing plants) and they were also under powered making tricky foreground plants even harder. So what’s the solution without spending the earth? The Superfish Aqua Qube Light. These lights really are great and I will tell you for why:

  1. Different wattages to chose from
  2. Stylish
  3. Effective
  4. Affordable

That’s 4 great reasons. Not only that but the units are small and well made – one is 18W which is more powerful than any small T5 luminaire I have seen on the market. If you really wanted to max out then you can run 2 of the units side by side and it won’t cost the earth either. There is no reason why you cannot grow any type of plant assuming you’re running CO2…

Each unit is 28x6x6cm and finished in a silver plastic. It clips on neatly to the side of the aquarium and once you switch it on, you’ll be amazed at how much light it kicks out. To see the range visit this link.

Water Changes In A Planted Aquarium

Getting water changed right saves you big time – in fact it’s so important I often wonder why hobbyists don’t pay more attention to it and look to see how water changes really help. Rather than reach for a bottle which helps get rid of algae, I advise

reach for you bucket…

Organics build up very quickly in an enclosed aquarium and when you put your plants through their paces (i.e. make them grow quick) just like anything that is alive and doing a lot, they get rid of waste. This waste needs to be removed with water changes and if it’s not tends to help algae to grow. So a simple solution right? Do water changes but the big question how much. Some of you may be quite surprised at the amount that you need to do and I’ll start off by saying 25% once a week is not enough no matter how big your tank is, that is unless you want algae. Assuming you don’t, here’s the routine:

Week 1 – 40% daily (yes every day for the full 7 days)

Week 2 – 40% every other day

Week 3 – 40% every three days

Week 4 – 40% every four days

You can probably see a theme developing here and this regime will provide great results for you no matter what. When you get to week 7 your regime will stick at 40% every 7 days and that won’t change. If you do find yourself with less than desirable algae in your tank then increase your water changes again. Don’t forget you’ll need to dose your ferts daily with these water changes and another good reason why we recommend Neutro Fertilisers for your plants.

It’s worth noting that this is only for CO2 infused tanks (that’s pressurised CO2 and not liquid carbon tanks). This is a tried and tested method and for those of you who are thinking, ‘I might just try and get away with doing less, or that’s a lot of water to throw down the drain’ then good luck! You can change your routine if you want but it’s not the answer – this routine hasn’t been plucked out of the air, unlike some hobbyists thinking around the subject…

It takes dedication, hard work and plenty of elbow grease to make a high tech CO2 tank work and it’s more than feasible too. The big question is whether you are up to it.

For changing water quickly and easily I recommend the Superfish Aqua Syphon Set.

Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker

Most of you are pretty familiar with drop checkers and I have written about them on here before. If you’re not (do a quick search on our blog), they’re a must have product for a planted aquarium without any question of doubt. They measure your CO2 levels in your planted aquarium.

All drop checkers work in the same manner but all differ in looks and shape and the new Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker has to be one of the smartest drop checkers I have ever seen. It’s so delicately made and so tiny at a mere 3x3cm you could easily lose it in your planted aquarium. Whilst you don’t of course want to lose it, keeping as much equipment out of the tank is the idea as it distracts from the aquascape. Any equipment in the tank should ideally be glass (where ever possible).  This drop checker comes with everything you need too – 15ml of bromo blue which means that when your solution turns green, you have the ideal CO2 levels in your planted aquarium (30 ppm). It also comes with a clear suction cup.

Although aimed towards smaller aquariums I personally think it’s suitable for all sizes of aquariums from the very small to the very large. Positioning wise, try placing it under your filter outlet – this will give you a really good idea as to your CO2 levels in your tank.

Are you using a Cal Aqua Nano Drop Checker in your tank? We would love to see a picture.

Problems In Planted Aquariums

We deal with a lot of problems on planted aquariums – after all that is what we specialise in so naturally we expect to deal with a lot of the same issues. One issue that crops up over and over again is the way people deal with problems. Now it was Einstein who defined insanity:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

and it’s so true…

Many hobbyists keep doing the same things and expect to get different results – which after reading the above makes you insane. Now of course this is an exageration, we don’t really think you’re mad but it’s  making people aware that they need to try something different if their planted aquarium is not going the way they expect. Lets look at an example of yellowing leaves. Customer notices some of the leaves on their crypts going yellow and thinks that’s strange but ignores it hoping it might go away.

Now yellowing of leaves normally indicates a nutrient deficiency so the remedy – add more nutrients.

Next couple of days the situation is no better, in fact it’s worse. More leaves are yellowing and no more fertilisers are being added. This fictional story happens all the time and I encourage you to do something different if you’re not getting the results you expect. In this situation if you added more fertilisers you would notice a positive difference. Leaves would begin to look better.

So next time things aren’t going your way in your planted tank, think about what Einstein said and then, do something different :), oh and add some ferts too

Plants For A Planted Aquarium

The exciting part and the one reason that you became interested in this hobby. These wonderful aquatic plants make your aquarium come alive with lush colours of green and red. Now the difficult part of choosing what plants to grow!

It’s important to do your homework before you choose which plants you keep in your tank. By doing some research you save yourself both time and money. Many hobbyists make the mistake when they go into a fish shop and are amazed by certain plants that look beautiful, may be a lovely red colour or a certain shape or size. They take them home and gradually they deteriorate. You’re left puzzled and confused as to why they didn’t grow and flourish.
Not all plants are suitable for aquariums. I’ve been in countless shops that sell non aquatic plants, so no matter how good your conditions are these plants will always fail. Shops only sell these plants because they know as soon as they are placed in your aquarium they begin to die – they hope rather than do your research you will come back and buy some more. I’ve never understood that concept and surely it’s better to educate customers so that they come back and buy a much broader variety of plants as their skills expand. So just beware of what plants are aquatic prior to purchase.

There are a huge amount of plants available for people in this hobby. There are 3 major growers of plant in Europe and they are Tropica, Aquafleur and Dennerle. Most plants will have labels on them indicating different requirements from a plant. They always state their Latin name, what size they grow to, their lighting requirements and normally where you should place them in your tank. Some will have other information on the labels such as how easy they are to grow. As you are at the early stages of this hobby, it will be best to opt for plants that are easy to grow. These types of plants will not require lots of light (this is key!) and normally flourish in the most basic conditions. A very small sample of these plants are:

Crinum Thaianum, Echindorus Parviflorus, Java Moss, Lilaeopsis Novea-Zealandie, Marsilea Crenata, Micromanthemum Umbrosum, Microsorium Pteropus, Nuphur Japonicum and Vallis Spiralis.

There are many others that are suitable simply check the label and marry that up against your tank set up. If a plant requires high light you can be sure it needs CO2 – this is typical of red plants. View the range of plants here.

Most plants are grown in pots – make sure they have roots. When you get them home remove the pot and rockwool carefully and split into about 6 plants. Tall plants must always be planted at the back of your aquarium are are ideal for covering up filters or heaters. Medium sized plants are most suitable for the midground and small plants are typically suited for the front of the tank to avoid obstructing the plants behind. Foreground plants often the most sought after because of the way they look and grow. They also spread rapidly given the right conditions and can really transform an aquascape.