7 Horrible Mistakes Beginners Make With A Fish Tank


You may be killing your pet fish and not even know it.

Thing is, how do you know what you’re doing wrong?

Well, that’s what you’re going to learn in this guide.

7 mistakes you may be making right now and how to correct them.

Let’s start with number 1:

Overfeeding Your Fish

It’s important to feed your fish, but overfeeding them causes problems like too much ammonia. You’ll only want to feed your fish what they can eat in 2-5 minutes each time once a day.

What happens to all of the uneaten food if you overdo it? It goes to the bottom and into the substrate. Eventually, if you don’t vacuum the substrate regularly, that food will break down and cause all kinds of problems with water parameters. Your fish will gladly eat as much as they can, but will eventually become fat and sick if you overdo it.

Overcrowding Your Fish Tank

This causes similar problems as overfeeding your fish. Too many fish in your tank means a lot more waste is being produced and therefore a lot more ammonia and nitrites. Too much ammonia and nitrites mean fish will eventually die. This problem is especially acute in smaller tanks below 50 gallons. A few options are to get a bigger fish tank to house all of your fish comfortably, or get another similar fish tank to reduce the amount in your current tank.

The general rule is 1 inch of fish per gallon, but this is open for much-heated debate. Filtration is the key here. The more you can cycle your water per hour the better for the fish. If you turn your tank over 4 times per hour, that should be sufficient but you can certainly do more if you wish. Use a bigger filter than is required for the tank. It won’t hurt and it will keep the water cleaner. Also, if you have live plants in your tank that will help with absorbing nitrates in the water. Here are my top five aquarium plants for beginners.

Not Changing Your Fish Tank Water

Exposure to ammonia—as well as nitrates and nitrites—can have severe effects on your fish. General signs for aquatic life with unbalanced water conditions include a decline or loss of appetite, loss of coloration, reduced energy and/or a weakened immune system. If left too long without being corrected, this chemical exposure can lead to death.

Even though you have the right amount of fish and not overfeeding them, you should change your water regularly to ensure you are getting rid of waste build up. Along with changing the water, you should be vacuuming the substrate, because fish waste and excess food will gather in the substrate and cause problems. This python I found on Amazon makes it super easy. Now if you aren’t overfeeding or overcrowding your fish tank and have proper filtration, you won’t have to clean your tank as much. 20% once a week should be sufficient.

Watch this video on how to use a Python

Putting Your Fish Tank by a Window

Windows seem innocent enough, but an aquarium placed near one can cause several problems. When normal, direct sunlight hits the tank the water temperature can reach lethal levels in a period of just a few hours if the windows have no or thin drapes or blinds. Having thick blinds and/or curtains will help block the sun’s rays.

Aquariums need a stable water temperature. Extreme changes in temperatures will lower your fishes’ immune system and lower the oxygen level in the water. Not only that, but the increase in light and heat from the sun will cause severe algae problems. Algae can be tough to get rid of once it grows out of control.

Ultimate Guide to Aquarium Lights.

Not Testing or Treating The Water

This is one of those tasks that eventually drops. You test the water, it’s fine, you test again, it’s fine, you keep testing and it’s fine. Eventually, you stop testing because you are lulled into thinking the water will always be fine. Well over time as things change in your tank, so do your water parameters. This is why you need to keep up on the testing regularly. You should always test after a water change or if you add/subtract new fish. The most complete water test kit I’ve found is the API Master Water Test Kit

Not Monitoring Temperature of The Water

All of a sudden your aquarium heater stops working and you don’t notice and the water temperature drops 10 degrees. Not good. This is why you should have a digital thermometer in your fish tank so that you can easily monitor the temperature in your tank. The temperature of the room is also a factor in the total temperature. If it’s winter and you have the heat of the room up, it will also raise the temperature of your aquarium water. The opposite is also true if the heat goes out and the temperature of the fish tank drops below acceptable levels. Sun can also heat up the tank quite a bit and kill all the fish. As the temperature rises, oxygen diminishes in the water and the fish have a hard time breathing. You may not notice it until your fish are gulping for air at the top of the tank.

An in-depth guide to fish tank heaters.

Using Tap Water Without a Water Conditioner

Do not use tap water for your tank without using a water conditioner. Why you might ask? Because chlorine is caustic and it will harm your fish and your tap water is going to
have chlorine unless of course, you’re on a well, in which case, you still want to use a water conditioner because a lot of them will help neutralize heavy metals and other contaminants in the water that you’re still going to have in well water.

How to test your water.

What are you struggling with? Tell me about your challenges with your fish tank below in the comment section.

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Clear Your CLOUDY Fish Tank: 5 Surefire Strategies


Struggling with a cloudy, disgusting fish tank?

Of course you are or you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Now you can have a crystal clear aquarium overnight without starting over.

If you want to learn from the experts on how to fix your cloudy water, then this short guide is for you. 

But first, you need to understand the root problem…

Bacteria bloom – certain types of bacteria that live on the bottom of your tank feed off the waste material from fish or food or dead organisms. When you have a new fish tank that you’re cycling, the bacteria in your filter has not grown enough to eat the waste going through the filter. That means the bacteria in the tank grows emphatically, known as a bacteria bloom, and makes your water cloudy. This will be a milky white cloud.

Poor filtration – Your filter is not cycling enough water per hour. It could be that filter size is too small for the tank and you need to upgrade. You should have three types of filtration: Biological, Mechanical, and Chemical. It could be clogged filters that need to be cleaned. It’s important to clean or replace your filters regularly (except for the bio-media filter).

Overfeeding your Fish – The food you give your fish has high amounts of protein, so overfeeding them causes waste to build up too fast for the filter to handle.

Dead Fish – You may not notice that you have dead fish or other water life like snails in the fish tank. A dead fish can cause all sorts of problems if not dealt with right away because you will have much more organic material in the water causing the water to go foul and cloudy.

Poor Circulation – If the water isn’t circulating, dead spots can arise where the water is not being filtered. Bacteria feed off of the dead spots causing bacteria bloom. Install an aeration pump with an airstone or a wave maker if it’s a larger tank.

Overcrowding your Tank –  Similar to overfeeding your fish, overcrowding could result in too much waste being produced for the size filter you have. Get another tank to house the excess fish.

Poor water parameters – Too much ammonia or nitrites have built up and is causing the in-tank bacteria to bloom. Always check your water quality with a test kit. Ammonia and nitrites should be close to zero or zero.

Having your tank light on too long – The light for your tank should only be on at the most 8-10 hours per day. Any more and you start to see algae growth.

Milky cloudy is bacteria driven, while green is algae driven. You need to understand the difference in order to get the proper solution.


Steve Poland Aquatics

Tip #1 – Overfilter your tank. If you have a 50-gallon tank, you should be using a filter rated for a 100-gallon tank. The reason is that the flow rate on the box is for the filter without the media. Once you stuff it full of media, the flow rate goes down. You should be turning over the tank 5 times per hour. Read my review on HOB power filter vs Canister.

Tip #2 – Polyfil. Use a coarse foam, then some pinky floss, then polyfil for the fine mechanical filter. Polyfil is cheap and it works great.

Tip #3 – Don’t overfeed your fish. Uneaten fish food is a big contributor to poor water parameters. Especially if you don’t clean your fish tank often.

Tip #4 – Use a good chemical filter like Seachem Purigen to remove any tannins that may be in the water from driftwood etc.

Primetime Aquatics

Tip #1 – Proper fish tank maintenance is key. That means doing water changes and vacuuming out your substrate regularly. This will pull out a lot of the uneaten food and fish waste that could be the primary cause of aquarium water cloudiness.

Tip #2 – Secondly, clean your glass or acrylic tank. It may be that it’s just the glass that’s dirty, looking like a cloudy tank.

Tip #3 – Thirdly, make sure you clean the mechanical filter media. If that gets clogged, it will stop collecting particulates from the water. If you just have a coarse mechanical filter, you will want to add a fine mechanical filter after the coarse filter to catch everything.

Tip #4 – Finally, start underfeeding the fish and if your tank is a bit overstocked,  reduce the number of fish to another tank.


Tip #1 – Add bacteria to the tank to enhance the beneficial bacteria. This will out-compete the nuisance bacteria that may be causing a bacteria bloom.

Tip #2 – Hook up a UV sterilizer. The UV sterilizer will prevent nuisance bacteria from reproducing.

Tip #3 – Use a coagulating agent like Acurel F. This will clump a lot of smaller particulates together, making it easier for your mechanical filter to stop.

Quebec Cichlids

Tip #1 – First you have to protect the fish and get rid of any ammonia or nitrites that may be present. You do this with a product called Seachem Prime. It takes about a week for things to get back to normal, so you have to add some every day for a week.

Tip #2 – Add a bacteria enhancer like Microbe-Lift Special Blend to get the bacteria going again eating the bad stuff. You also should get some ammonia resins like Sea Pora ammonia resin and nitrite/nitrate resin.

Tip #3 – Perform a 10% water change every day until all of the ammonia and nitrites are gone. If you still have some ammonia or nitrites present, you may have to reduce the flow rate on your filtration system to allow the bacteria to grow.

Tazawa Tanks

Tip #1 – Flow and floss in your filtration system. Use a more powerful filter than you need and some type of floss material for mechanical filtering.

Tip #2 – Move your lighting up towards the front of the tank. The color of the light and how bright it is will affect how clear your water looks, so experiment a little. If you’re getting algae, then reduce the amount of time your lights are on per day.

Tip #3 – Clean your glass both inside and out.

Tip #4 – If your water is turning brown, it’s usually because of decaying plant matter producing tannins so remove any excess dead plant matter and clean off any driftwood or other decorations, then use a good chemical filter.

Tip #5 – Frequent water changes. (sound familiar?)

Filters That Will Help Clear Aquarium Water

There are three main types of filters that every fish tank should have. Biological filters that grow bacteria to help absorb ammonia and nitrites. Chemical filters that filter chemicals in the water, and Mechanical filters that filter out the solid wastes in the tank that are most likely causing the cloudiness.

The important filter for cloudiness would then be a mechanical filter. Ideally, you want to have 3 stages. First a coarse filter, then medium, then a fine filter. This will catch 99% of the particulates out of the water for maximum water clarity. 

Filter pads would be the easiest solution since they can be cut down to size and come in many porosity levels. The higher the porosity, the smaller the particulates the filter will catch, but will also clog faster.

Filter socks would be the best solution for clear water, but require frequent maintenance and aren’t designed for many types of filters.

Pillow casing, does a very good job. You have to be careful though not to get any that are bleached or dyed as that can be harmful for your fish.

Open cell polyether filter foam. The advantage is that this can also double as a biological filter.

Quilt batting that is 100% polyester. Make sure there are no additives like fire retardants in the material.

Polyester fiberfill, also called filter floss does a fabulous job.

Polyester mesh fabric can be purchased at your local fabric store. There are many different grades and colors available.

Woven plastic filters are not the most effective, but can be used in conjunction with other filters.

Coarse sponges are lower maintenance but don’t do as good a job in clearing the water.

What if I have no fish and my water gets cloudy?

If you have a new tank with no fish yet, it’s actually normal to get cloudy from a bacteria bloom from new tank syndrome. The bacteria start feeding off of the dead organisms that come from the plant or rocks in the tank and grow so fast you can see them. Once bacteria build on in your filter, the cloudiness should go away. You can add bacteria into the water to speed up the process. Adding a floss filter will also help clear the water faster.

When you do a water change, clean the filter, or clean the gravel, you upset the balance of the tank ecosystem. When that happens bacteria in the tank will blossom and grow until the balance is restored by bacteria growing the filter medium

Remember when you first start a new tank and are cycling the tank, water cloudiness is to be expected. Ride it out and let the good bacteria build in the filter system, then the cloudiness should go away.

If cloudiness persists, then try some of the cures above until your water clears up. If you have green algae check out this article on getting rid of algae in your tank.

Best Canister Filter for 75-gallon tank.

This site is owned and operated by PSK Enterprises LLC. PSK Enterprises LLC is a participant in the Amazon Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

How To Remove Algae From Fish Tank Decorations


The fastest way to remove algae from a fish tank decoration is to remove the decoration, spray hydrogen peroxide on it and let it sit for 5 minutes, brush it off with a sink scrubber or fish tank scrubber, rinse and return it to the fish tank. Make sure to use a water conditioner in your fish tank after returning the decoration. That should take care of the algae.

How Do You Remove Algae From Aquarium Plants?

If you have plastic or silk aquarium plants, you can use bleach. Heat up a pot of water to almost boiling, put in a ½ cup of bleach and reduce the heat to simmer. Put in the plastic plants and swish them around for a while. Rinse the plants in a bucket of cold water until the bleach smell is gone. If the smell isn’t gone yet, let them soak for about 5 minutes or so. Rinse under a faucet and return them to the tank. Always use water conditioner in your fish tank after using tap water.

How Do I Stop Algae In My Fish Tank?

If you balance the nutrients, nitrates, and light in your fish tank, you shouldn’t have too much of an algae problem. Algae feed off of nitrates, phosphates and lots of light. If you have live plants, make sure they are healthy, so that they will outcompete the algae for food and nutrients. Limit your lighting to 6-8 hours.

Certain types of fish, snails, and shrimp feed off of certain kinds of algae, so think about adding some to your tank.

Get a UV sterilizer to inhibit the growth of algae from stage 1 to stage 2.

If you don’t have live plants or bacteria and the level of nitrates spikes, you will have to do frequent water changes.

How Do I Get Rid of Green Algae in My Fish Tank?

Green dust algae form on the glass and have a dusty appearance. You can remove this with a magnetic algae scraper. Let the algae run its course for 3 weeks or so, then scrape it off and do a large water change.

Green spot algae form hard green spots on the glass and broadleaf plants. Low phosphate, CO2 levels, and poor water circulation are generally the cause. Increase phosphate levels by adding monobasic potassium phosphate. You can scrape this off the glass with a razor blade or magnetic fish tank scraper. Bristlenose Pleco fish are great for eating this type of algae.

Green water is a one cell algae that turns your fish tank water green. Excess ammonia is usually the cause of this. Since they are single cell algae, they grow quite rapidly.

UV sterilizers are the best way to fix this.

How To Remove Algae From Aquarium Rocks

Same treatment as removing algae from decorations. Pull out the rocks and spray with Hydrogen Peroxide which kills the algae on contact. Wait five minutes, wipe them down and return to the tank. Another way is to lay them out in the sun for a few days, which also kills the algae.

If you don’t want to keep cleaning the algae in your fish tank all of the time, you need to find ways to at least manage the algae growth. You should understand where algae come from and what causes algae to grow out of control.

Root Causes of Algae Growth

If your aquarium has too much ammonia from lack of proper filtration, too many fish or overfeeding the fish, algae will feed off the ammonia. You also need healthy, live plants to out-compete the algae for nutrients, limiting their growth. That means plenty of nutrients for your plants so they will grow. Too much lighting will also promote algae growth.

Ways To Control Algae in Your Aquarium

  • Adding certain fish, shrimp, or snails known as the “clean up crew”, will help to control your algae.
  • Limit the amount of light on the tank to 6-8 hours. Also, change the fluorescent tube lighting if it’s more than a year old. Tube lights lose their spectrum after some time, which is good for algae growth.
  • Use a UV Sterilizer. Great for green clearing green algae.
  • Make sure you have good water circulation.
  • Make sure your live plants are healthy.
  • Don’t overcrowd your fish tank and don’t overfeed the fish.
  • Use Seachem Excel for boosting CO2.

You will never be totally algae free, but there are ways to manage it so you don’t see it. There are many types of algae, so it’s important to understand the different types and how to combat them for a cleaner fish tank.

blackbeard algae

Blackbeard Algae

Black beard algae grow on leaf edges of slow-growing plants, bogwood and mechanical equipment. It grows in clumps or patches of fine black tufts up 0.5 cm. The cause is usually low CO2 levels and/or poor water circulation. Siamese algae eaters are known to eat this type of algae. You can also use Seachem Excel to treat it.

blue-green algae

Blue Green Algae

Blue-green algae is not really an alga but a bacteria that use photosynthesis. It covers everything in a blue or green slimy mat. You can easily peel it off, but it will grow back very quickly. It is very common to find this growing on the substrate and the front of the glass tank. The growth is usually caused by low nitrates, dirty substrate or dirty filter. To fix this, clean out as much of the algae as possible, do a 50% water change and total blackout of the tank for 4-5 days. Cover the tank so no light gets in.



Cladophora or blanket weed as it’s known is a branching green type of algae usually cause by low CO2 and nutrient levels. You will have to raise CO2 levels and manually pull them out. They can be stubborn to get rid of.

brown algae

Brown Algae

Brown algae form brown patches on plants and tank glass. High ammonia in the tank is usually the cause. That’s why you’ll see it in newer tanks before the filter has had a chance to grow bacteria. This can be vacuumed out and wiped off with a soft cloth.

Hair algae look like fine hair that grow on plants. Causes could be low CO2 levels, low nutrient levels or ammonia spikes. Amano shrimp, Rosy Barbs, and Mollies eat this type of algae.


Rhizoclonium Algae

Rhizoclonium algae look like puffy balls of fine strands that grow on plants and substrate. Overdose with Seachem Excel. Amano shrimp will eat this type of algae.

Staghorn algae grow in strands that branch out and look like a deer antler. It is black to grey in color and sometimes has a red tint. Causes are low CO2, poor water circulation, dirty filtration, and not doing water changes after gravel cleaning. Reduce feeding of fish, vacuum the substrate and do a water change. Try overdosing Seachem Excel.

Staghorn Algae

Algae Eating Fish

Siamese Algae Eaters – Probably one of the most if not the most effective algae eaters out there. They will eat most types of algae and other food waste. They only grow to about 2 inches in length, so they can be kept in most any tank. They are a hardy fish and easy to care for. You can mix them with other species of fish with no problem. They do become territorial if kept with too many of their own kind, so keep numbers to 3-5 per tank.

Bristlenose Pleco – A good algae eating fish for larger tanks. Their sucker mouths cover a lot of ground. They can grow up to 6 inches and are night feeders. The best part about the Bristlenose Pleco is that they will eat green spot algae, which most of the others will not touch. They will get along with most other fish species as well.

Otocinclus Catfish – Also known as ‘dwarf suckers.’ Very small in size, but can eat a lot of algae. Their small size allows them to get into tiny crevices and consume algae. They prefer brown, and soft green algae.

Florida Flag Fish – Only eat algae if there is not enough food.

Mollies – Only eat algae if there is not enough food.

African Cichlids – Primarily eat green algae

Algae Eating Snails

Zebra Nerite – One of the most popular types of eating snails probably because of their beautiful zebra-like shell. Nerite snails also eat most every type of algae including the harder to eradicate green spot and green beard algae. They can be easy targets for predatory fish like cichlids, so be careful of the species of fish you add to the tank. They also like to climb out of the tank, so the tank must be well covered. They will also leave hundreds of small, white eggs around the tank which can look unsightly.

Ramshorn Snails – Great for tanks with lots of plants. They like to pick the algae off of plants, decorations, and tank walls.

Mystery Apple Snail – These grow pretty big like to the size of a baseball, so you need a pretty big tank for these guys. As you can imagine, they have a big appetite and will consume most types of algae. Make sure there is plenty to eat for them because they will start eating the plants if there is not enough food.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails – Good algae eaters. Small in size. Will not eat your plants.

Algae Eating Shrimp

Amano Shrimp – These shrimp are constantly hungry and will eat most types of algae except green spot algae and blue green algae. They only grow to about two inches, so they are perfect for smaller tanks. They need to be kept with docile fish so they don’t become fish food.

Cherry Shrimp – Known for their bright red color you can find these at most pet stores. They are great at getting into small hard to reach places that algae eating fish can’t get at. Nice color to have in the tank too.

If you keep your tank maintained with filter cleanings, water changes, not too much light especially sunlight, healthy plants, and adding algae eaters, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with algae growth.

NEXT: Can Tropical Fish Eat Fruit?

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Do You Need Substrate in an Aquarium?


The substrate you use for your freshwater aquarium plays an important role in the overall biological cycle. Beneficial bacteria will eventually grow on the substrate helping to break down the waste in the fish tank. Substrate is also very useful for anchoring live plants and other decorations in the aquarium.

Is it necessary to have substrate?

It’s not totally necessary to have aquarium substrate and you may prefer the look without it. In fact, your fish tank is much easier to clean because all you are doing is vacuuming the waste off the bottom not sifting through substrate. However, without substrate the tank can’t build as much bacteria to break down the waste and excess food from your fish. Substrate also hides the waste somewhat, so if you have no substrate your tank will look like hell in no time. If you want live plants, substrate is a must.

Is gravel or sand better for an aquarium?

It’s really a function of what type of fish you want to keep, what kind of look you want, type of filter you want, and how often you want to clean it.

Advantages of using gravel are that it can look nice, comes in different colors and sizes, and hides the fish waste better, so you won’t have to clean it as often. If you want to use and under gravel filter, then you would need to use gravel as a substrate.

Some species of fish might not be ideal for a gravel tank, such as, loaches or corys that use their feelers for food scrounging. The feelers may become damaged over time with sharper edged gravel.

Gravel also tend to keep the pH high because the gravel has a buffering effect.

If you go the gravel route with bottom feeders, get smaller pea-sized gravel with smooth edges. The larger gravel are for larger fish.

Sand looks a little more natural in your fish tank. Certain types of fish like loaches like to burrow in the sand turning over the sand and waste so it looks cleaner. Sand also stabilizes the pH better than gravel.

One main disadvantage to sand is that waste shows a lot faster and therefore it takes more maintenance to keep it looking clean. Vacuuming a sand tank is also tricker and takes longer than gravel. If you have the right type of fish that like to burrow, then they will do most of the work for you. You don’t want fish that produce a lot of waste for a sand bottom.

One thing you need to be aware of with sand substrate are gas pockets. They can be deadly to your fish. What happens are pockets of air will form in the sand. If waste gathers in those pockets and decomposes there, nitrite and ammonia gas will build up. When that gas eventually releases, it could cause harm to your fish. To prevent that, you need to regularly and diligently vacuum the tank, and perform frequent water changes. Rake your sand after each water change.

What is the best aquarium substrate for plants?

You could literally write a book on the subject, but just understand that certain plants get their nutrients from the water and certain plants get their nutrients from soil. Most plants for an aquarium feed off of the water nutrients.

Some aquarists like to put down a layer of organic soil before the substrate on root soil feeding plants. A more efficient way is to get some nutrient dense volcanic soil substrate designed for plants like the Fluval Plant and Shrimp Stratum.

Keep in mind that the nutrients will eventually run out, and you will have to fortify the soil somehow.

Sand is not the best for live plants, because the plants cannot root properly in the condensed, wet fine sand.

Types of Aquarium Substrate:

Pea gravel – Comes in many different grades and colors that can be combined for an interesting look. It has a good open structure to allow oxygenated water flow to all parts of the substrate bed. The mineral content keeps the pH level neutral or alkaline.

Supply Guru SG2133 River Rocks, Pebbles, Outdoor Decorative Stones, Natural Gravel, For Aquariums, Landscaping, Vase Fillers, Succulent, Tillandsia, Cactus pot, Terrarium Plants, 2 LB. (32-Oz).

Pea Gravel

Quartz gravel – An inert material used a great deal in aquariums. It provides a perfect substrate for healthy root growth.

OMEM Aquarium Stone Decorations,Quartz Sand,Aquarium Fish Tank Gravel Decorations,Gravel Pebble,Aquarium Decor (1.1 lb(500g))

Quartz Gravel

Silver Sand – Very fine inert grains that don’t make the water cloudy.

Homeford FWG00000SAND01SV Bag, 5", Silver

Silver Sand

Lime-free gravel – Makes a fabulous inert substrate that is first rate for plant health.

Love Aquatics Alfagrog 2Kg 2 Litre Ceramic Filter Media For Koi Fish Pond Aquarium Stone Biorb


Alfagrog – Is a porous, inert ceramic with a large surface area. The large surface area promotes good bacteria growth for tank waste.

What additives should I use with substrate?

Most substrates do not contain nutrients to support plant life, therefore the nutrients must be added. There are some brands that have all the nutrients already included. Most online pet stores carry them.

Laterite is most commonly used nutrient for substrate without nutrients already included. It’s a clay-based powder containing iron, which is important for sustaining plants. Just spread some over the substrate and mix it in before adding water.

How deep should the substrate be in a planted aquarium?

Gravel substrate should be about 3 inches deep. It will vary because you should slope the substrate from back to front. So maybe half inch deeper in the back and half inch shallower in the front.

How do you clean sand in a fish tank?

The best way to clean sand in a fish tank is to stir up waste with your fingers so everything settles on top. Then you would vacuum the waste off the top. You have to hold the vacuum slightly above the sand, so you don’t start sucking sand up in the vacuum.

How much sand should you put in your aquarium?

Sand substrates should be kept shallower, due to the possibilities of detritus building up in the sand and ease of cleaning. One and a half to two inches of fine sand should be good unless you have a tank with high circulation.

What substrate goes with which fish?

For bottom feeder fish like cory catfish, and loach, a fine sand substrate works best . A very small, smooth pea sized gravel would work too. These type of fish like to turn over the substrate when foraging for food, so they need to be able to do that. The corys have little feelers that get damaged if the substrate is sharp. Geophagus are also good at keeping sand substrate clean.

How do you slope substrate?

Substrate should be higher in the back then in the front. It displays nicer and waste will roll down to the front, making cleaning easier.

NEXT: What is the Purpose of a fish tank filter?

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7 Changes That Make a Big Difference in Your Fish Tank

Water Changes

Water changes are vital for maintaining the vitality and health of your aquarium. It helps to maintain the health and growth of your fish, encourages breeding behavior, and removes organic waste.

Now, there are different factors that come into play when determining how much and when you should change the water. Good filtration goes a long way in helping you lessen the frequency of water changes. Good filtration can help get rid of particulate matter and improve water clarity but is not a replacement for doing water changes.

Over time organic waste and food accumulate and must be removed from the gravel. The only way to dilute this is by vacuuming your substrate regularly and changing out some of the water with fresh water. Evaporation is not enough.

You have to remember your fish live in a closed environment, not like out in the wild so it’s up to us to keep the water clean with good filtration, and regular water changes as well as vacuuming substrate. I recommend about a 20% water change and vacuuming weekly.

Adding Good Biological Filter Media

Having good bio media is crucial to growing the beneficial bacteria that is needed to absorb the harmful ammonia and nitrites that fish and fish food produce. A good bio media is one that is very porous with maximum surface area for the bacteria to grow. The more surface area the better. I recommend getting a porous ceramic like Biohome Plus to do the job.

Adding Algae Eaters

Adding algae eating fish, shrimp, or snails are all good for managing algae that will naturally grow in your tank. Different species of fish, shrimp, or snails will specialize in certain types of algae, so you’d want to get the species that will take care of your particular type of algae problem.

Siamese Algae Eater: They are the most aggressive, ravenous algae eaters out there. They really eat all types of algae and are peaceful in nature.

Bristlenose Plecos: They are bottom feeders and like to get in the nooks and crannies of the substrate and rock. They will eat the hard to get at algae. They’re also very colorful.

Otocinclus Catfish: These are very small and only grow to about 1.5 inches. They like to eat brown algae.

Livebearers like Mollies, platys, and guppies are known to eat various hair algae.
Nerite Snails: These colorful snails will graze on almost any type of algae in the tank. One nice feature is that they don’t breed in the tank like other snails do.

Mystery Snails: Another snail that will eat almost any type of algae. They will also eat leftover fish food and decaying plants.

Cherry Shrimp: These guys specialize in eating hair algae from the tank as well as leftover fish food.

Amano Shrimp: The eat various types of soft algae as well as decaying plant matter and leftover fish food.

Adding CO2

Basically, plants need CO2 and light and other nutrients to grow properly. If you have weak plants, this will allow the algae to grow. Now some CO2 is produced naturally from the fish taking in oxygen and releasing CO2 much like humans do. There is also some release of CO2 from the bacteria that naturally grow in the tank. If you have low light “easy” plants this may be all you need. If you have plants that require stronger lighting, then you will need to add CO2 to the tank to keep them healthy.

One way is a pressurized tank. You add the CO2 until you have reached the required pH in the table, and the required pH depends on the carbonate hardness of your water and on how much CO2 you wish to have in your aquarium. A bit of CO2 (e.g. 3-5 mg per L) is better than nothing. Plants that are marked “Medium” require about 10-15 mg CO2 per L, but “Advanced” plants require 15-30 mg CO2 per L.

Here are the top 5 plants for beginners.

Reducing Lighting

Too much light can cause algae growth in your tank. Too little light could stunt the growth of your plants also causing algae growth. If it looks like your plants are doing fine and you find that you have an algae problem, you should reduce the amount of time your light is on. You only need about 8-10 hours per day depending on the type of plants you have. Any more than that would cause the plants to grow too fast. When plants grow fast they need increased CO2 to sustain the growth, otherwise, they start to wither and die. This leaves room for algae to take over. Reduce the light about an hour or two per day will curb this. It’s a good idea to have some sort of timer if you have fluorescent lights or programmable LED lights so you don’t have to worry about it.

Changing The Mix of Fish

If you have problems with your tropical fish not getting along or maybe hurting each other it could be you have too many males to females. The standard mix for most species is 1 male to every 2-3 females. If you are going to keep a community tank with many species, stick to community fish and don’t try to keep predatory fish with the smaller community fish. Reducing the number of fish can also help the tank as there will not be as much waste produced to filter out.

You’ll want to find fish that are compatible with each other. Here are the most compatible fish.

UV Sterilizer

This piece of equipment can improve the clarity, cleanliness, and overall health of your aquarium. It’s a tube that contains a fluorescent lamp that produces light of a specific wavelength. The water flows over or around the bulb and as the light hits the bacteria or algae, it’s DNA mutates preventing them from growing. The result is clearer, cleaner aquarium water.

Most of them are self-contained and are kept in the fish tank. They have their own powerhead and are easy to install. If you unscrew the cap you see the bulb which is housed inside a quartz sleeve. The sleeve insulates the bulb keeping it from the cooler aquarium water which allows it to maintain a higher UV output.

The longer water is exposed to the UV light, the more effective it will be. This is referred to as “dwell time.” There are a few factors that influence this. One is the flow rate of the filter. Second is the size of your tank which in conjunction with the flow rate will determine how much water goes through the UV sterilizer per hour. If you have a big tank with great filtration flow rate and a small, cheap UV sterilizer it’s not going to do you much good. Do some research to get the proper size.

A UV sterilizer is not a replacement for filtration or water changes. You still need those.
Do not use a UV sterilizer when first cycling a tank. The light will prevent beneficial bacteria to grow.

The end goal is to have a nice clear tank for you and your fish, so use these tips to get the aquarium where it should be. If you have a cloudy tank, here is how to clear it up.

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