Tag Archives: algae

Importance of Maintenance guide

Importance of Maintenance guide.

So, with only about three weeks ago until the big day it’s that time of year again where you will be inundated with those Christmas visitors bearing gifts & the one thing always grabs peoples attention is your aquarium. So you’ll want to impress your visitors for sure! The Importance of Maintenance guide is here to help as usual and have put together a simple step-by-step guide to get that aquarium in tip top shape.

Is your water quality good enough?

Firstly Importance of Maintenance guide would start here and I would be firstly testing the water with a test kit. It’s always a good idea to routinely test your water especially if some of your fish have been poorly or new fish have been recently added to your aquarium.  So a simple test kit which tests pH, water hardness, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia will do the trick.

Is it due a water change?

Importance of Maintenance guide would recommend water changes on a weekly basis and consider this to be an important part of maintaining good quality water. We say about 30% and that can easily be done with a syphon set which sucks water up and out.  This can also be used to plunge into the gravel too for cleaning up any unwanted food waste and debris from the aquarium bed.  We also have a selection of gravel cleaners that are great for this too.  Remember that tropical fish naturally live in environments where they have running water from a current or rainfall so it’s important to stimulate this natural environment.

Could your filters do with a good cleaning?

Filters are designed to clean and purify your water however if it is clogged with waste it can not do its job properly and the water quality will not be as good.  So get cleaning the sponges (of course using about two cups of the aquarium water) and give the tubes and filter casing a good old clean and scrub. These filter brushes are very useful for this too. By following the Importance of Maintenance guide your sure to have the cleanest of filters.

Are your plants in need of a good trim?

This is a simple process which if done correctly and regularly can really pay off so follow the Importance of Maintenance guide. Not only does this improve the growth of your plants but it will also improve the overall health of your plants. We would never recommend household scissors as they can easily damage the stem structure so I would always recommend a good pair of Aquascaping scissors such as these.

Could you do with more plants?

Depending on the type of Aquascape you’re looking to achieve depends on how many plants you will need. Many people are hesitant adding more plants to their aquarium because they fear they will die, are too fragile to keep or too difficult. However this is not the case at all and most plants are actually very hardy and if kept in the right conditions will flourish in your aquarium.  The two main reasons for loss of plants is due to 1) incompatible plants that need different water parameters 2) incorrect lighting.  Don’t fear adding more plants to your aquarium as long as they’re compatible with your existing ones.

Could your rocks, wood or decor need a good old clean or need replacing?

The Importance of Maintenance guide would recommend a good old scrub of your aquarium decor which can be done under fresh water. It is surprising how much they can gather green algae and the difference a good old scrubbing can do. However after a while some wood, rocks and aquarium decor can look tired and no matter how much you try scrubbing away at that green algae build up, the staining can be stubborn. Sometimes you just want to try something a bit different, try out a different aquascape. Here we have a selection of great quality aquarium decor.

Can you see your reflection through the glass?

And now the finishing touches, get yourself some glass cleaning wipes and give your glass a good wiping over until you get a sparkle! Also a glass scaper is very good for getting to those hard to reach dirty spots as the long rod enables you to reach a little further. Its also a good idea to invest a magni-cleaner too as they cleaner both sides of the glass for you…meaning less work for you!planted-aquarium-lighting

Following our guide you too could have an aquarium as perfect as these .

pagoda-rock-in-aquarium

Red algae in saltwater tank

Red algae in saltwater tank

If you’re s hobbyist who keeps a marine tank then you’ll know the importance of keeping on top of your algae levels, and red algae in saltwater tank is a bit of a problem for some of you. In fact demand for products that reduce red algae in saltwater tank has been going on ever since the hobby began. There have been lots of products that come and go, but some of them stick, and for good reason too – they work :)

You’re reading this because you need a solution to you red algae in saltwater tank and here it is. Colombo Mycosidol is a fast acting and effective product that removes red algae in saltwater tank, and it’s also safe to use.

red algae in saltwater tank
removes red algae in marine aquariums

So what is red algae?

Strictly speaking red algae isn’t an algae at all and is actually cynobacteria and as a result, it’s important not to treat it like a traditional algae with the more common algae remedies. If you do it this way you won’t clear it up and wonder what has gone wrong and why you bothered to spend you money on it! One thing I would like to point out is that cynobacteria is not always red. It can be blue, green and even black sometimes, but more commonly red.

You’ll normally see red algae or cynobacteria as a clump or a patch hidden away somewhere. It will start small and at first you might not really notice it. They key is not to ignore it at this stage and hope that it goes away – it won’t. Red algae in saltwater tank will not disappear on its own and will need your help to make it happen. Go over your tank with a fine tooth comb in that respect and hunt it out.

Why has is happened?

Lots of reasons, but once you have treated with Colombo Mycosidol you’ll need to look at the following reasons for the future (or else it will come back):

  1. What is the flow like in your tank – I’m guessing not as good as it should be because the reason you have red algae in saltwater tank is your flow isn’t as good as it should be. Improve that and make sure your circulation pump/s are moving all the water around that they should be.
  2. How dirty is your filter? Make sure it’s nice and clean and that the sponges are free from debris.
  3. What is your pH? It may not be as high as it should be. A pH of 8.1 and higher will discourage red algae in saltwater tank. Just make sure you’re not using a pH buffer which uses phosphate to help buffer. Look for alternatives.
  4. Are you using a phosphate removal product in your filter? If not you need to as this will help reduce red algae in saltwater tank.
  5. Make sure you’re not using tap water as this contains too many minerals for your tank including nitrate and phosphate. Use RO (reverse osmosis) water and then remineralise it that way.

But in the meantime you’ll need to use Colombo Mycosidol which will remove red algae in saltwater tank. It comes with 20 small capsules, about the size of a paracetamol tablet – you know the one’s. 1 tablet will treat 25L so if you have a small tank, Colombo Mycosidol will last you a long time and  A full bottle’s worth is enough for a 500L tank and for most of you out there that will be more than sufficient.

Simply pop the required number of capsules into your marine aquarium and let it do the work it is designed to. It’s impressive stuff.

Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic Plants

Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic Plants

If you have an aquatic environment for your pet, then you have definitely been faced with the issue of either getting or holding aquatic plants. While some people enjoy the possible distractions to using them, there are many reasons to consider using various aquarium plants. Throughout this article we will take a closer look at some of the ways that you can benefit from using aquatic plants in your set up.

Nitrogen Cycling

Any person that is serious about the health of their fish needs to understand the nitrogen cycle that is completed in most aquatic conditions. The ammonia that is produced when a tank cycle occurs is toxic to fish but much appreciated by aquarium plants. Aquatic plants are able to absorb ammonia very easily and quickly which is why it’s always important to add plants from day 1. They help the cycle and plants grow very quickly during this period and a key reason why Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic Plants.

Providing Temperature Control And Comfort

Another reason that you should get aquatic plants for your aquarium is that they can help provide temperature control. Whether you have natural light or electrical lights above the tank, they can increase the temperature of the water (this is particularly important in warmer climates). By having aquarium plants, you can decrease the overall impact that light has on the temperature of the aquarium, allowing you to have greater control over temperature fluctuations.

Live Plants Help Your Fish And Invertebrates Thrive

Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic PlantsOne of the other reasons that Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic Plants is that they can help bring out more natural behaviour in your pets. This is important for two different reasons. First, your fish will have more places to hide in their environment that will make them more comfortable and less susceptible to stress. After all, fish wants to have a few rocks, water, and a light bearing down upon them. They need places to get away from the glaring outside world.

The second reason that aquarium plants are so useful is that they can bring out more natural behaviour in your pets. Fish will not approach a synthetic plant the same way that they approach and interact with natural aquatic plants. The result of this is not only more comfortable pets, but pets that have a more natural environment that can have health impacts on them.

Filtration

One of the things that every aquarium owner knows is that aquatic environments can become inundated with a variety of different bacteria, algae, and flora rather quickly. That is why it is important to have plants in your aquarium to harvest some of these excesses to help their growth and keep the water clean at the same time. Not only will this result in a healthier environment for your aquatic pets, but it will also allow you to spend less time with maintaining your aquarium. That’s not to say you don’t need water changes (on the contrary) because when aquatic plants grow, they produce waste and this needs removing from your tank. This ‘invisible waste,’ if not removed, turns into nutrients that algae loves to feed on.

These are just some of the reasons Aquariums Benefit From Aquatic Plants. While these are some of the most important benefits, there are many smaller ones that you can discuss with a knowledgeable aquarium shop such as Aqua Essentials. If you are interested in viewing the range we have on offer of aquarium plants click on this link.

Ultimate Aquarium Algae Eaters

Algae is a massive issue in a planted aquarium and everyone suffers from it.

Some more than others. Those who have been in the hobby for a while will know the HUGE benefits of keeping shrimp in a planted tank, with particular reference to Amano Shrimp which are the LARGEST algae eating shrimp I am aware of. They’re SO HUNGRY for food is almost comical. Not only do they eat a lot, they’re big at roughly 3cm long.

Imagine this for a moment: The tank we keep them in has no algae left – they’ve eaten every last scrap and as a result we have to feed them shrimp food. We pop a few premium grade pellets in and within seconds they’re fighting over it. In the end, the largest shrimp wins and swims off the biggest chunk and eats it all to himself (greedy or what?!). The rest battle it out over the smaller pieces and in no time all the food is gone. Hopefully this demonstrates just how hungry these shrimp are for food. They will tirelessly eat algae 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Below is a wonderful picture of how good these shrimp are. The picture (from Tropica website) shows how efficient the Amano shrimp is when it comes to keeping a plant aquarium free from algae. The aquarium to the left had 3 shrimps, the one in the middle had none, while the one to the right had one shrimp during the start-up. They were all planted in the same way: 3 Anubias barteri var. nana and 3 Eleocharis parvula. The picture has been taken 3 months after the start-up.  A recommendation is 1 Amano shrimp per 5 L water during the start-up of a new plant aquarium. Once a biological balance has been achieved in the aquarium, you can easily settle for fewer shrimps – e.g. 1 per 15 L water. However, if you have many fish that you feed, then we recommend that you maintain the population of 1 Amano shrimp per 5 L water.


If this tickles your fancy, and you want a stress free way of keeping your tank algae free, then invest today in Amano Shrimp by clicking here. And if you want your order for (tomorrow) i.e. Saturday then you can – just make sure you order before 4pm today :)

Maintaining your planted aquarium like a pro

So I stumbled across this rather cool video that George Farmer did for Tropica and wanted to share. We’re often asked about maintaining a tank and what to do and what not to do, and there’s nothing like a video to demonstrate this.

A few things I picked up on:

  1. Notice how George hovers over the substrate – not plunging it. This keeps it clean enough.
  2. Use a toothbrush to keep the edges clean, the water line and the bottom of the tank where the substrate meets the glass. A toothbrush is unobtrusive and won’t stir your substrate up.
  3. Once he has trimmed the plants, he uses a net to remove the bits that float to the surface and siphons off any plants that haven’t floated anywhere. He also uses his finger to disturb the mosses where debris can get trapped.
  4. Lots of freshwater shrimp. I could see a combo of amano shrimp and crystal reds. No pro scaper will have a tank without shrimp, yet I know many of you DO NOT have shrimp yet you wonder why you have algae…
  5. Clean water goes back into the tank via a sieve. This is a great tip that avoids causing disturbance. Also notice how much water was changed (about 50%). Are you changing enough?

So you see this equipment does not need to cost the earth. Folllow George’s guide and you won’t go far wrong.

Killing algae with a little bottle

Algae is such a major problem for hobbyists, it doesn’t surprise me that manufacturers are catering for this rather large issue. I also know a lot of you become despondent about algae but please try not to. Algae happens to professional scapers too – think of it like this. It’s like weeds growing in your garden, it does and always will happen, it’s just a case of what you need to do to stop the rot. So now you know they are part of life (and your aquarium) there are always solutions to everything. So let me introduce a short term fix:

Dupla algae killer

Dupla Algen Killer (which we are calling Algae Killer) is a simple remedy that kills all types of algae slowly. What’s more it also stops it from regenerating so this could be a real winner for a lot of people. Economical and very effective, this biocide kills off algae over a few days to avoid any O2 depletion. This seems sensible to me and I am glad they have looked into this and changed the concentration accordingly.

As a short term fix this 25ml bottle is good for a 250L tank, but if you’re adding it as a preventative measure (and I suspect this will be the main use after the first initial dose), one bottle is good for 2500L. You would dose 2ml per 100L every week.

So what do you think? Bit like liquid carbon I guess.

Algae Control Tropica Style

Tropica are incredible at what they do – there’s no two ways about it their plants are certainly the finest in the world. They’re a joy to look at and also a joy to ship out to customers like you.

Their website is ever expanding too which is great – initially they only ever published information about their plants but now as a result of freelance help they have articles covering all aspects and one that caught my eye today was their article on algae which is a major issue for a lot of hobbyists. You can read their article here and they make a very good point about algae eaters so take note there.

hair algae

Fixated on iron…

I’m really surprised how iron focussed some people are. It’s rather worrying too. Problem is that so many manufacturers have banged on about it for some long, they’ve given the impression that it’s really important. So here’s some news for you:

iron is a trace element

That’s right – trace. That means it’s required in small quantities – not large quantities. Iron does not cause hair algae, it won’t make your plants grow better (on its own) and you really need to stop focusing on it so much.You’re also very unlikely to have only an iron deficiency, because nutrients are all generally linked.

Those of you who are wise will know that there are far more important things to be concerned about such as good water circulation, lighting on for no more than 8 hours per day, minimum 30% water change per week (and more if you are having algae issues) and adding quality fertilisers on a daily basis.

So does iron ever need to be dosed separately? You probably know the answer to this by now but for those of you who haven’t worked it out then no. You just need to add more of your main fertilisers, that’s all. Neutro T and Neutro+ cover this.

Enough said.

High light with low light plants = bad combo

You’ve got to get the levels right from the beginning and getting basics wrong like lighting just gives you a headache later on.

If you have high lighting, then the only way you will have success is if you have CO2, lots of ferts and great water distribution, and….lots of plants that like high light! Slow growers in high light tanks just doesn’t really work.

Low light plants are like that for a reason – they grow slowly and you can’t push them on quicker than their genetics allow them to. The classic example is moss – it will never grow quickly, no matter what. If you try and force it on with high lighting and lots of CO2, you’ll probably end up stressing it out and making it go yellow rather than the wonderful green you want it to.

So before you commit to high lighting, have a good hard think about the types of plants that you genuinely want to grow, and if you’re not sure, start with lower lighting – you can always build on that if and when your mind changes.

Do I really need fertilisers for my plants?

YES YOU DO!

So many newcomers to the hobby are blighted by poor information on the internet dated from years ago, and sadly it’s wrong. So I wanted to make it very very clear:

You cannot rely on fish waste for plant nutrition

If you rely on fish waste for nutrition, your plants will suffer a nutrient deficiency and algae will take hold. Now there are some plants (like vallis) which is like a weed and grows in almost nothing, providing water conditions are suitable. But I’m not talking about weed like plants. I’m talking about the plants sold on our website – the attractive potted one’s that look truly wonderful given the right fertilisers.

So please remember this, and spread the word. You have to give your plants nutrition, and that always comes in a bottle form.

Aquarium plants dying

Sounds familiar?

It is to me. But then I am on the receiving end but if you go onto forums you’ll see this sort of statement all the time. I often here the same reason as to why aquarium plants are dying and it’s normally due to the fact that they have algae. They’ve been told (normally by shops) they need to starve the algae. Advice like this is sooooo old school yet the message is continually advised from shop owners who in my opinion clearly don’t know what is best.

So hobbyists follow the advice given to starve their algae and totally stop the nutrients they are putting in. Algae dies back a little and plants totally disintegrate – the reason why is simply

you’ve just starved your plants to death…

My advice to anyone who is looking for advice is speak to experts, like us (and a few others) who know what is best, and not generic shops which peddle out these toxic messages. If your plants are dying you need to first work out why. First, are they actually aquatic plants? Sounds a funny thing to ask but there are still a lot of shops that sell non aquatic plants! This only adds to confusion to hobbyists who may be doing everything else right. Below are pictures of a few non aquatic plant – looks nice heh?

 

problem is they will last a couple of weeks then start breaking down. These plants should live in your garden or conservatory, not in your tank. So if you have a plant that looks like these (normally they come without plant labels for identification), remove them and start again.

Secondly, are your plants getting the right nutrients? I’m recommending Neutro T for non CO2 tanks and Neutro+ for CO2 infused tanks.Your plants need no other nutrients with these ferts below.

neutro t aquarium fertiliser

neutro+ aquarium fertiliser

You add these ferts daily because that’s what plants want. Just like us, they want feeding every day – not so crazy is it? Feeding weekly is nuts and just marketing spiel to make it appear that the fertilisers are more economical then they actually are.

Are you providing your plants with carbon is gas or liquid form? If not, why not? Carbon is the backbone of plant growth and without it, your plants will suffer. Try Neutro CO2

neutro CO2 aquarium fertiliser

Are you performing weekly water changes of at least 30%? Plants need clean water unless you want to grow algae and I’m guessing you don’t.

If you follow these very basic steps I guarantee that you will have success with the majority of plants. Some that you might struggle with are advanced one’s but we’ll get onto that at another time.

If you’re still having troubles, reply to this post and let’s talk :) Call us on 01363 774 787.

Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants. Have you tried them?!

We’re delighted to announce that we are stocking the Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants and they’re looking awesome. The plants really are perfection in the making. And they may look small but don’t be deceived, because the sheer number of plants in them in staggering. Each container is jam packed full of incredibly healthy plants, just waiting to be chopped into smaller pieces by you and planted into your aquarium.

For those that don’t know, 1-2-Grow! plants are grown in labs in tissue culture. That means there is never any chance of algae, snails or pesticides of any sort – it’s simply impossible. Perfect for sensitive fish or shrimp.

You can find our range of Tropica 1-2-Grow! plants on our website by clicking here. As you will be able to tell it’s quite diverse already from mosses to stem plants. And because they are grown by Tropica, you know the quality and consistency is always 100%. It’s a really brave move by Tropica to introduce these sort of plants on a commercial scale. I know they feel it is the future of aquatic plants, but the question is do you?

Have you tried these plants yet? Do you think they are good value? Perhaps there might be a reason why you don’t want to try them and I’d love to hear why!! Reply below!

Can’t be bothered to do water changes?

Some of you are like this, and some are not but the bottom line is that you need to perform water changes when you keep a planted aquarium. Sounds simple right? Well I know a lot of folk who don’t perform many water changes, because…

I did a 20% water change the other week – that’s enough right?…

 

That’s not enough I’m afraid. If I’ve kept you attention, read on.

Water changes are needed to remove pollutants that plants produce – you can’t see them, but they sure are there. When plants grow, they like everything else that grows they produce waste. These waste products (organics) need to be removed, otherwise they build up, become more concentrated and then cause you problems and normally show up in algae form. In many CO2 infused aquariums, your turbo charged tank is really motoring and plants are growing like weeds, so it’s important to stress that the quicker your plants grow, the more waste they produce and this is why it is essential to:

perform 40-50% water changes every week.

It’s a bit like flushing the toilet if you catch my drift. Imagine not flushing the toilet…YUK!!

How often do you perform water changes?

Don’t give up…

It’s sometimes tough with a planted aquarium and if you let it, demoralising. Your desired planted tank just doesn’t seem to get to where you want it to and you don’t know why. You try this, you follow that, you participate on forums and still you can’t get it right. Algae grows on your plants and to top it all off, you’ve spent a fortune!! So you feel like throwing the towel in but

DON’T, you’re nearly there…

I deal with a lot of customers who feel just like this and I know how hard it can be. I was there once too and only through perseverance did I make it. Don’t get me wrong, I felt like I wanted to chuck it all in and this was before the days of the internet too. Can you imagine trying to learn about planted aquariums before there were any books that were specialising on the subject? Believe me it was tough and the advice was very old fashioned, suggesting very lean dosing (no macros) lighting needed a siesta (what a load of rubbish!) and that if you didn’t have an under gravel heater your plants would fail. To top it all off, filters apparently needed a very slow turnover of water (hmmmmm). Fortunately things have changed. The internet was created and now in some ways hobbyists have information overload. But I digress a little as the subject of this post is Don’t give up… and there’s a simple reason for this. When you’re up against it and everything is going wrong, this is the time when you are learning the most. You probably don’t realise it but your mind is taking in so much information. Sadly, because it’s a very frustrating time (and hard on the brain), combined with the fact that you have spent a lot on the hobby, and you may be moaning to your other half about all the problems, it would be easier just to pack it all in wouldn’t it? But when is easier best?

Just around the corner is the answer, the trigger that will make the difference. You may only need to alter one aspect of your tank set up and the tide will turn. Plants will flourish and grow in front of your very eyes and you’ll look back at the time you had when your tank would never go right and then all of a sudden, BINGO. This invaluable knowledge is what you can then pass onto other hobbysist, because it feels good to share and help those in need.

It’s all about the experience, all about how you deal with the ‘problems’ that are confronting you. And don’t forget I can always help too, just drop me a line, call me or email me and we can sort your planted aquarium problem out together :)

Clean your substrate and glass at the same time!

This is the sort of tool that we like to see here at Aqua Essentials, something that does more than one job at a time. With planted aquariums, water changes are an absolute must and they need to be done in reasonably large volume too (especially if you are running CO2 where weekly 50% water changes are not unusual). Most of you will be using all sorts of devices to remove water from your tank but have you seen one that cleans glass at the same time?

Introducing you the Superfish Gravel and Glass Cleaner. So how does it work? The gravel cleaner itself is no different from the standard type but it’s the fitting on the end which is unique. It has a flat edge to it which means that you can scrape any algae off your glass at the same time as performing a water change. This will really save you time as you will be doing 2 jobs at the same time. Not only that but the sieve on the cleaner means that if you do suck any gravel or substrate up by mistake, it won’t go very far. Soon as the water pressure if released, so will be the gravel.

This piece of equipment can be used on any sized aquarium from 50L and up and once you’ve tried it, you’ll wonder why it hadn’t been invented before!

Giesemann T5 Powerchrome

If you’re a serious hobbyist who appreciates quality products for your planted aquarium then the Giesemann T5 Powerchrome range of lamps are just the ticket for you. Giesemann, for those of you not familiar with the brand are German with a phenomenal reputation for quality and these lights will not disappoint. We supply two different types which emit different lights colours – this is the primary difference between the two.

Aquaflora – a perfect lamp for increasing plant growth in your aquarium. These lamps emit colours which not only highlight the colours of your fish but also the plants. The brightness of these lamps is incredible and as soon as you place them in your aquarium, you will notice a big difference immediately. Plants which haven’t pearled before may suddenly pearl if you are using CO2.

Midday – A stunning 6000k lamp which produces a very natural light. Easy on the eye, this lamp is specifically designed for plant growth and similar to the Aquaflora, once installed you will be amazed at how bright the lamp in.

Should I mix the lamps? We recommend if you have 2 T5s lamps you should use 1 x Midday and 1 x Aquaflora for the best effect in bringing out colours of your fish and plants, along with incredible plant growth.

How often should I replace them? Like all lamps their output decreases from the minute you turn them on. A typical life span of a T5 lamp for a planted aquarium is 12 months – you may think that there is no difference in the output but there is. Without a light meter you would never know this. To the naked eye, you wouldn’t notice any difference either particularly as you look at your aquarium every day so any light decrease happens very gradually and is subtle. The difference is your plants will notice a big difference and if you looked at a new tube compared to one which is 12 months old, then you would see how one has aged. So if you change every 12 months, your plants remain happy and continue to grow as expected. Slow plant growth can be attributed to limited light output.

I’ve heard I shouldn’t change all my lamps together – is this true? Absolutely, and for the reasons mentioned above, lights deteriorate over time. If you replace all your lamps together the new lamps will be much brighter than the old one’s and this can stimulate algae growth as your plants will have adjusted to the old light levels over time. So when it comes to changing them, replace them one month apart to avoid mjaor disruption and algae outbreaks.

Can I use these T5s on my set up? Providing you are already using T5s then yes. Make sure you use lamps of the same length and you’ll be fine.

The best T5s on the market...

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 :)

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.

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.

CO2 In A Planted Aquarium

Knowing whether or not to use CO2 in a tank is a choice that many hobbyists go through. And the short answer to this is simple, it really depends how much time you want to spend on maintaining your tank. There is no doubt that in order to grow some plants successfully, you will need CO2. At the same time, there are many plants that do very well with limited or no CO2 input.

There are three types of CO2 available on the market – Pressurised, Fermented & Liquid.
Pressurised is the most stable type available to hobbyists, where gas is stored in a pressurised bottle. This is attached to a regulator which in turn has a bubble counter and diffuser attached to CO2 tubing. By using a pressurised system you are giving yourself ‘gas on tap’ so this means you have total control over CO2 input. This is very important because  CO2 (when used properly) creates stability in a tank. Systems  such as the D-D Complete CO2 set costs £127.99. You may also wish to consider a disposable bottle system (where the bottles are literally disposed of when they are empty) or a refillable bottle system (only suitable when you can actually get bottles refilled easily). Either way don’t be frightened of CO2 – it’s very easy and safe to use contrary to scare stories.

Fermented systems are a great introduction for hobbyists who are looking to try out CO2 for the very first time and costs from £25 and up. They provide a cheap set up specifically geared towards hobbyists looking for a cost effective solution for their planted aquarium.
The set up for all fermented systems (or DIY as it is sometimes known) is almost the same. Each brand of system uses a combination of yeast and sugar provided in sachets they are mixed together and then placed within a container which allows fermentation to occur and CO2 to be produced (see image above). CO2 tubing is attached to the container which has a diffuser attached to the end. This sits in the aquarium and the gas is forced out of the fermenting chamber and is diffused into the tank. We recommend this type of set up, but it does require cleaning (due to the fermentation process) and CO2 levels can drop off, and are changeable according to the room temperature (this effects the fermentation rate).
The last option which is the most simple is a liquid form of carbon. Available by manufacturers such as Seachem, Easy Life and the AE Design label, it offers a product that provides a liquid carbon source (roughly 25% strength of pressurised CO2). The liquid carbon is packaged in a bottle and dosage is very simple but must be done daily. Another major advantage is that it works as an algaecide – it is well known for ridding many types of algae in the aquarium such as hair algae.

It is quite common for liquid carbon to be used in conjunction with DIY CO2 or pressurised CO2 systems, almost like a complimentary product.  Either way when you are growing plants, it is important to have at least one source of carbon in your aquarium so at a bare minimum use a liquid carbon.

Test Kits For Planted Aquariums

If we never tested our water, how would we know exactly what is happening? Understanding water parameters is essential for planted aquariums and with hobbyists who are relatively inexperienced, they really help. It’s too early to be guessing at what is happening within your tank just by looking at your plants and fish. So what should we test for and when should we test?

The main test kits that are important to planted aquariums are pH, KH, GH, PO4 (phosphate), NO3 (nitrate) and Fe (Iron). There are other test kits that are useful such as NO2 (nitrite) and NH4 (ammonia) but they are more useful at the beginning of setting up an aquarium or when adding new fish.

Which brand? There are a vast amount of brands available in today’s market and there is no question of doubt that test kits vary enormously in not only accuracy but also price. It’s fair to say that the cheaper the test kit, the less accurate it will be. For that reason we recommend test kits by Precision Labs – they supply dip test which means you literally dip the testing stick into your water for about 2 seconds and then remove it. They provide a very accurate result in a short period of time. If you prefer liquid tests where different solutions are used then click here to see our range.

So now we know which test kits are needed and which brands are best, what levels should we be aiming for? The first thing to remember about planted aquariums are that your water parameters will change all the time. Do not focus too much on pH and how much that will swing from day to day. There is no problem with pH swings – it’s perfectly normal. The target reading is 6.8 but if you struggle to achieve this, don’t worry too much. KH is a test to determine the carbonate hardness of your water; aim for about 3-4 kH. This level will also help stabilise your pH. GH will vary enormously and is also linked with pH. The target level for GH is 60ppm (parts per million) but plants are OK with higher levels. PO4 in a non CO2 aquarium is considered undesirable so aim for 1 ppm or less. NO3 levels should remain between 10-50ppm (preferably closer towards 10ppm in a non CO2 aquarium). Higher levels than this are undesirable and there are a number of filter resins that can be added to soak up excesses. Fe levels should stay low – iron is a trace element so the plants only require low levels. 0.1ppm is sufficient and it’s worth noting that higher levels than this can cause undesirable algae growth.

Before you begin testing your aquarium water, it’s best to know what levels you are working with before hand and the most simple way of this is to test your tap water. This way you understand the ‘base levels’ and know what to expect. It also gives you a good idea of what your plants are consuming and what levels are increasing as you feed your fish and nitrates and phosphates are produced. But don’t forget although fish produce waste, plants absorb some of these excesses too.

More Aquatic Plants = More CO2

Have you ever had a CO2 infused planted aquarium and for a while everything went just right? You had no problems, things were doing well, no algae and you felt pretty pleased with yourself :). In fact, you had temporarily nailed it and then…

algae appears

So you rack your brain, think about what has changed and what might have happened but you still draw a blank. The answer is that you have probably become a victim of your own success (or at least your tank has). As your tank matures, plants grow. This means that the increased biomass effects water distribution along with the plants requiring more fertilisers. If you have kept your CO2 levels the same as before and you’re still adding the same amount of fertilisers as before, you can begin to see why the problem has evolved. Slowly but surely you’ve been starving your plants of what they really need:

  1. More CO2
  2. More Fertilisers
  3. Better Water Distribution

The best thing to do at this stage is to give your plants a good haircut. This will bring overall levels back to where they were (when the tank was doing great). Any deformed leaves or one’s which have algae on them should be chopped off. Essentially you are resetting your aquarium and now you know better. It’s important to stress that as your tank grows you have to increase CO2, fertilisers and improve water flow. Larger plants will block water in its path and stop essential nutrients from getting where they used to. Pay attention to what your plants are telling you – observe your CO2 bubbles and see if they are getting to everywhere that they should. This is the beauty about using pressurised CO2 as you can watch the tiny bubbles move around the tank and if they’re not getting to a certain area, then you can bet fertilisers aren’t either.

In summary, it’s easy to overlook the correlation between plants growing and the effect this has on your planted aquarium. Just remember that as they grow, more demands are put on the aquarium unless you maintain the plants to a specific size (trimming weekly for example).

Have you had problems with your aquarium and overcome them? I’d love to here them.

Water Circulation In A Planted Aquarium

This is something that I discuss with customers time and time again but in all honesty a lot of hobbyists don’t realise how important it really is. Water circulation in a planted aquarium is really important.

Picture this – your aquarium is heavily planted, you infuse CO2, add excellent fertilisers like AE Design Aqua Nourish and Aqua Nourish+. You have good lighting and perform regular large water changes but…you only have one filter pushing around the water, CO2 and fertilisers. And for some reason you have algae – anyone been in this situation?

The reason you have algae is insufficient water distribution. Whilst you get full marks for everything else, in a planted tank that is CO2 infused, you have to get everything right otherwise, algae grows. If you only have one filter pushing water around and you probably have wood/rocks so there will be quite a few dead spots or certainly areas that don’t get much if any water flow due to the deflection they cause. Water flow is the life blood of the system – it carries nutrients and CO2 to the plants and if circulation isn’t up to scrath, your plants don’t get what they need and algae responds. When diffusing CO2 into your tank, you literally have to see the bubbles everywhere and if they’re not in every nook and cranny, you can bet the plants will be struggling in that area.

Water circulation pumps don’t need to be particularly large, in fact some are quite small and powerful. Let me introduce you to Hydor Pico Evo Mag 650. This amazing tiny piece of equipment moves 650L of water per hour and it’s only 4.5x3x6cm which means that it can sit in your tank and barely takes up any space. It contains a magnetic suction cup so you place it anywhere and the idea is to direct it towards the areas in your tank, which don’t get enough water movement. If you have foreground plants, you would need to direct this onto them – in fact this is one reason so many struggle with them. Because they are at the bottom of the tank, they don’t get much water movement and therefore not much CO2 and fertilisers. By pointing a Hydor Pico Evo Mag 650 towards them, it will push the necessary water, fertilsers and CO2 onto your foreground plants forcing them to sway in the current (perfect!).

Ensuring you get your water movement just right, removes so much stress from your planted aquarium. If you want to see our other range of water circulating pumps then visit this link here.

If you are having problems with your aquarium, why not ask a question on this blog and I will respond.

In addition I have managed to find an excellent image of a larger planted aquarium in which world class aquascaper Mark Evans demonstrates perfectly why a circulation pump is required.