How We Hold Our Aquatic Plants

As you know we’re a serious shop which specialises in the planted aquarium – a life long passion of ours. Plants as you might expect are very important to us and have always intrigued us due to the variety and the types of species available. But there are lots of other plants retailers in the UK, admittedly they’re not specialists, but they ‘hold’ plants. The definition of ‘holding’ plants varies enormously and you may have visited these shops before, a metal halide on the ceiling and lots dead or poor quality plants floating about. Some are much better (not many) but you get the idea.

We’re in business because we love what we do and strive to be the best. So why do some aquatic shops not look after their plants and why don’t they care? They lose money every time a plant dies but for some reason this makes no difference. Even in the current economic climate few retailers are able to hold plants for longer than one week without them deteriorating or dying – the end result means chucking them straight in the bin. Of course the question should why are they not worried about throwing away money and why are they holding their plants in a tank anyway with no CO2 and fertilisers anyway? Because they don’t really care….

It is perfectly feasible to keep plants looking great in aquariums, providing you know what you are doing, but there is also a better way. Have you ever wondered how Tropica and Aquafleur keep and grow their plants?  The answer is hydroponically – it’s much easier. But shops will not embrace this way which is a shame as they would have so much more success, and if they really loved their plants they would care.

I find this really sad because I love plants and want to make sure they look their best at all times, particularly as they will be sent in the post and customers rightly have even higher expectations of plant quality when they are buying online – because you can’t see the exact plant you will receive. Some shops will take advantage of this situation and maybe send a plant which shouldn’t be posted in the hope that the customer won’t be bothered to complain but we’re different. You expect the best and when shopping with Aqua Essentials, and that is exactly what you receive, the best. So how do we achieve and maintain this standard? The answer is a simple one, and incredibly no other shop in the UK, holds aquatic plants like we do. That’s right, no other shops in the UK, and possibly in the world. Intrigued? Read on…

We spoke to the growers of Aquafleur and Tropica plants and asked about their systems. We wanted to know all about humidity, temperature, air movement, nutrients and so on but the biggest question was how to replicate their conditions in our own warehouse. Because if we are serious about plants, which we are, why wouldn’t we want to keep plants the same way as the growers? Makes sense doesn’t it?

After taking on their advice, we invested in a climate controlled environment in which all plants are held hydroponically. This means that the pots are kept in nutrient rich water but the leaves are kept out of the water. The humidity is high, so we invested in equipment that creates humidity. We also needed to make sure that there is plenty of air movement so intake and extraction fans are used – this makes sure plants receive fresh air and oxygen. Temperature has to be specific for aquatic plants so, we’ve invested in equipment that maintains a specific temperature at all times. But the message is not what we have invested in, it’s the dedication we make to ensure your plants (which is essentially what they are) are kept in the very best condition. Our plants don’t have algae, they don’t have snails but do have the strength to survive in the post for incredibly long periods of time because we have replicated as close as possible the growing conditions of the plant farms we buy from.

We want you to feel safe and secure that you’re buying the best. We’re proud to be the first aquatic retailer that has replicated plant farms in Europe and we wanted to share this news with you. In the future we will be holding at least 3 times the amount of plants we currently stock which is pretty exciting – this means you’ll be able to get a wider range from us along with better stock levels meaning if you have an idea for a planted tank and specific plants, odds are you’ll be able to get them from us and know that they are being held in the very best environment, just like the growers.

If you have any questions about the way we hold aquatic plants, ask a question on this blog :)

Shipping Freshwater Shrimp

We love our shrimp at Aqua Essentials and when we send them in the post we make sure they are healthy, lively and of a certain size. What most people are surprised at is what size shrimp should be sent in the post and why.

When we send ours, we don’t look to send adults. We aim to send juveniles and the reason for this is very simple. Smaller shrimp are far more adaptable that larger shrimp. Think of it this way – imagine a shrimp which has spent all of its life in one aquarium. This could make it roughly 2 years old. Then compare it to a younger shrimp that is still growing and may have only been alive for 5 months – which do you think will be more adaptable?

The answer is a juvenile shrimp.

So if you purchase shrimp from us (and we hope you do!) expect shrimp of about 10mm is size or so. This means your shrimp will travel better to their destination and then adapt much more easily into their new home.

For our range of freshwater shrimp please click here.

Freshwater Shrimp Molting

If you keep freshwater shrimp (and many of you do) you will have seen shrimp exoskeletons which are the shell of a shrimp. Molting is necessary for shrimp to grow and during this process, they can be very vulnerable. Their new ‘skin’ is relatively soft and therefore after they have shed their skin, they tend to hide for 48-72 hours so that they can allow their shell to harden up. Depending on how much the shrimp is eating there is a direct correlation between number of molts and food eaten.

However, not all molts go to plan. It is still very common for freshwater shrimp to die in a an aquarium when trying to molt and this can be for a variety of reasons but predominantly bacterial disease. The shrimp will attempt to molt but will not be able to shed its skin and it therefore becomes trapped and dies. Many hobbyists have often wondered about how this happens and why and chose to feed a wider range of foods to overcome the problem but it still didn’t have the effect hoped for. This can be easily overcome thanks to a wonderful new product…

Genchem Beta-G which is a unique powder that should be added to your shrimp tank every week. This will stop any molting problems in the future enabling your freshwater shrimp to grow at the speed they wish without any risks.

Economical too, you only need to use 1/5th of a spoon which comes with Genchem Beta-G, so expect this product to last a couple of years :)

Freshwater Shrimp Food

When keeping freshwater shrimp, it’s essential that you feed them food that is appropriate for them. Shrimp (unlike humans) are not content with eating 2-3 meals a day – in fact they are quite the opposite and graze constantly. As soon as they have finished what they are eating, they’re off to find more food. Ultimately this is what makes them ideal for use in the planted aquarium where algae can often be found.

With many tanks though, there isn’t enough algae to keep them sustained particularly if your breeding colony of shrimp in increasing in numbers and as a result you have to supplement their diet. This is a good idea anyway as algae is OK for them, but it doesn’t contain everything they need.

Genchem Biomax is a unique shrimp food in the respect that it has been designed for 3 different sized shrimp.

Size 1 is suitable for baby shrimp as the pellet size is very small and can be handled easily by these young shrimp. It’s really important to feed baby shrimp more regularly than adult shrimp, especially when they are very young. If they do not have sufficient food regularly then can easily die. Don’t over feed this product but underfeed either.

Size 2 is suitable for juvenile shrimp – I would consider these 4-8mm in size. The pellet size of this food is larger than Size 1 and as a result is more attractive to shrimp of an appropriate size.

Size 3 is for adult shrimp – this food is the largest out of all 3 and ideal for shrimp of 10mm and upwards. This food contains selected nutrients which will also encourage breeding.

By using all 3 sizes of Genchem Biomax in your shrimp tank you will ensure that all of your shrimp feed on appropriateate sized food and also get the best nutrition.

Improving White Banding On Crystal Red Shrimp

If you’re passionate about Crystal Red Shrimp (CRS) like us then you know all about banding and how the clearer the white banding is on the shrimp, and the fuller it is, the higher grade your CRS. Genetics play an important role within CRS and the better genes the parents have the higher the chance of having CRS with quality banding. But if your CRS doesn’t look quite as good as you hoped it to, is there anything that can be done?

You can help those ‘genes’ by providing an excellent diet in particular Genchem White Pellet which is a shrimp specific food designed for improving banding. We’ve been using this food for about 2 weeks now and have been very pleased with improvements so far. The white banding on our CRS is clearly more defined and it seems thicker and fuller. The CRS take readily to it as well, almost as if they know it’s going to improve their colour :)

Like all Genchem products they have more than one function and in this case by feeding Genchem White Pellet, it will help improve moulting.So this double fold effect is a win win. Your shrimps will improve in colour and the moulting is easier.

Saving Young Freshwater Shrimp

Shrimp breeding is on the whole pretty easy stuff. Give them the right sort of water parameters (by using a substrate), some time and plenty of high quality shrimp food and before you know it, your shrimp are pregnant, holding roughly 50 babies underneath them. They are wafted with O2 all day until they are ready to be released into your aquarium.

That day comes and it’s hard to see the shrimps as they are so small but what’s really sad is that the majority of these shrimp will not make it into adulthood for one simple reason – they won’t consume enough food as their immune system is not strong enough.

With a low immune system, young shrimp can become very weak, very quickly and as a result perish as they don’t have enough energy to eat. This doesn’t need to be the case anymore if you introduce Genchem Polytase. This simple and effective powder is designed to be dosed once a week and by doing this it strengthens their immune system enough for the young shrimp to pull through. You’ll be amazed and how many more shrimplets you see in your aquarium in a very short period of time.

You can use Genchem Polytase with any type of shrimp which you are looking to breed. Not only that but if you ever have nitrite or ammonia in your tank this product will also help reduce it. So it really does have a 2 fold effect.

For more freshwater shrimp products please click on this link.

 

Ammonia In Fish Tank

Ammonia in a planted aquarium can be a common problem especially if your tank is new or if you have upset the substrate in some way – you may have over fed your fish too as that can cause a spike. For the first few weeks of a tank cycle you may well see some Ammonia present in your tank water. Assuming you have no fish in your tank (which you shouldn’t do as the first fish should go in after 6 weeks), there’s no need to worry. Just let the nitrogen cycle take it’s natural course and your ammonia will disappear after it converts to nitrite and then nitrogen (which is harmless). But what about those of you who have put fish in too early or for some other reason like over feeding or disturbing your substrate and you have ammonia? Follow the steps below and you can’t go far wrong:

Step 1 – act fast. Ammonia is the number one killer of fresh and coldwater fish. If  ammonia is present your fish won’t last long. The reason why ammonia is so toxic is that it works by binding directly onto the oxygen particles in your water, so essentially it starves your fish of oxygen so when they breath, they’re gasping for oxygen. This is why their gills are pumping.

Step 2 – Use Seachem Amguard immediately. This is an excellent product which will bind the ammonia and render it harmless meaning that your fish will not suffer. Oxygen is then freed up so your fish can breath normally.

Step 3 – Use Seachem Stablity. Another excellent product which helps to convert the ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate (end goal) quicker than any other product on the market. Use this at the same time as Seachem Amguard for best results.

Step 4 – Monitor your ammonia using Seachem Ammonia Alert. This is a permanent test that you place on the inside of your aquarium and it reads your ammonia levels 24/7. Therefore there will be no question of doubt if you have the toxic ammonia or not.

Once you follow these steps you can relax and your fish will be happy. Don’t forget that we offer Express Delivery so if you need your goods fast then we offer a next day delivery service.

detoxifies ammonia in fish tanks fast

Flow Rate In A Large Planted Aquarium

With a high emphasis on flow rate in a planted aquarium I found this latest video which Mark Evans shot, very interesting.

The general idea is that you filter 10 times the tank volume of water per hour so if your tank is 100L, you would look to have a filter that filters 1000L per hour. Fairly straight forward right? But in a larger aquarium is this necessary? I always thought it was until today. Mark’s aquarium is large, 363L. Previous calculations would mean the filter/s would need to move 3630L per hour but it’s quite a lot less this time and the flow rate is 2600lp/h and as you can see from the results, it’s pretty incredible. Flow rate is much slower but with no negative impact.

Interestingly enough the CO2 is also fed into the external filter via the inlet and the results mean that you don’t have thousands of tiny bubbles floating around the tank. The diffuser is an UP 16mm Inline Diffuser – in the past these have always been plumed in on the outlet but I do like the idea of not having to look at all the bubbles…

A lot of people ask where they should place their powerheads or filter outlets in order to get the right sort of water movement and as you can see from the clip, a large spraybar is positioned which pushes the water across the tank and at the opposite side is a lily pipe positioned very close to the water surface. Now I’m not sure if this is to keep the surface polished or if it’s another reason. Maybe if Mark reads this post he could enlighten us :) What I do like to see is some water movement at the surface and it’s clear that there is a gentle ripple – this makes the water shimmer a little too along with the help of his metal halide lighting. In the past hobbyists were keen on maximum Co2 absorption and kept the surface almost still which caused nothing but problems. Dust would build up very quickly and then this could turn green blocking off light.

I also like his positioning of the drop checker. Right under the spray bar – odds are he won’t have a great deal of flow around there so if the drop checker is green there, you can bet it’s bang on for the rest of the aquarium.

All in all, you can see Mark does things a little differently to most hobbyists and this is why he gets such super results. He tries, experiments and learns and his skills are getting better and better all the time.

I would love to hear what other people think of his tank and also where they position their drop checker.

The Planted Aquarium Market Today…

I thought I would write a post from a different angle in order to stimulate more responses from hobbyists. I used to be an avid aquascaper, producing aquascapes regularly in order to improve my skills. Today I have a lot less time to be aquascaping even though that is what my business revolves around (kind of ironic isn’t it?!). Most of my time is taken up dealing with the everyday running of the business, providing advice and assistance to customers and ordering goods, sourcing new products etc. But I’m trying to make a bit more time in my day so I can dip my arm back into the water and start scaping. I’ve even got a brand new ADA tank and cabinet which sits empty and looks very sad at the moment…

But the point of this post is to reach out to you guys and find out what you think of the planted aquarium market today. Recently the International Aquascaping Contest took place where hobbyists from around the world were invited to send in pictures of their planted aquariums in order for them to be judged and compared to other competitors. Now this is always a great competition and the standard continues to rise every year. I rarely agree with the winners and often think many of the lower ranked scapes are much better but, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (something for another blog post…). But what really got me about the results was the number of British scapers who submitted their aquascapes and were listed in the top 1000 – I could count them on one hand and found that actually quite sad (in a melancholic way). So I’ve been racking my brains thinking about and wondering why more UK scapers don’t actually scape. Perhaps it’s one of the below:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of skill
  • Lack of inclination
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of money

Is it any of these or is it something else? What I do know is that aquascaping skills are not sufficient and photography skills need to be right at the top too if you’re going to win any decent prize. Have a look at top UK Scaper Mark Evans – some of this tanks are truly incredible and he won the top British award. Check this out:

A truly incredible position and rightly deserved too. Mark’s photography skill is as impressive as his aquasapes and this helps to enhance his scapes. If his photography skills were not where they were today (and lets say he had a poor quality camera), I wonder how this would have effected his aquascaping? Maybe he would have been forced to discover the art of photography in order to pursue his passion of planted aquarium and maybe that’s what more people need to do in the UK…?  Camera technology improves all the time and the price comes down but sometimes if you see the lights and camera equipment involved that Mark uses, it can look rather daunting.

So I asked this same question on Twitter and @pfkeditor tweeted back – Brits like to critise and not get involved. I think there’s a lot of truth in that and wondered if that would ever change. In order for us to improve as a nation we have to be more encouraging and less critical. Yes it’s easy to criticise particularly sat on your sofa with the laptop next to you. But this isn’t helping our unique hobby and we need to be more encouraging to everyone, let people make mistakes and we can all learn together. Lets face it you don’t even need that much money to get you going either. You can buy a small tank and maybe 6-7 pots of aquarium plants, lighting, filtration and a CO2 set and you’re away. What you do need is drive and determination because if you’re going to make a go of it, you’ll need lots of drive, you’ll have to be able to take criticism and move on.

I would really love to hear what you guys think about this subject. What is is that holds you back. What would make you consider entering competitions and why do you think other hobbyists are a little camera shy?