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Balancing Nutrients, Lighting and CO2

Volvox algae

Aquatic plants require three main things in order to photosynthesis and flourish: Energy, nutrients and CO2. ┬áIn an aquarium environment, energy can be provided by via flourescent lighting. Nutrients can be provided by dosing macro and micro nutrients and CO2 via “DIY” or pressurized CO2 systems or naturally. (CO2 naturally diffuses into the water column, along with oxygen). For plants to properly grow, they require all of these things to be properly balanced, or “Houston, we have a problem”. This is especially true if one has excessive lighting, and low CO2 and/or nutrient levels, as these conditions equal algae. As with water chemistry, the key to healthy plants is finding a balance between lighting (energy), nutrients and CO2.

Hobbyist have labeled the different balances low-tech and high-tech. Low-tech (also know as low light) setups utilize low lighting levels, low fertilization levels and (generally) no CO2 injection. High tech (also known as high light) setups utilize high lighting levels, high fertilization levels and pressurized CO2 injection.


Stability. Not Perfection.

Stability. Not perfection. That is the key to aquariums. Or aquarium water parameters that is.
Almost every single aquarium book in the universe will tell you that you “Cant keep a neon tetra in hard and alkaline water.” Well, they are 99% wrong. I say 99%, because there are exceptions. The key to happy, healthy, fish is keeping your aquarium stable. What this (generally) means is that you can keep fish in water parameters that do not “suite” them. But since there are no macro fluctuations in tank’s chemistry, they will survive and thrive! How can this be so you wonder? Well fish are are, as you know, highly adaptable creatures. And as long as change is not sudden, but takes place over a period of time. Now, unfortunately some fish do not apply to this rule. Discus, altum angels, and other sensitive species must have perfect and stable tank chemistry to survive.

Remember though, water chemistry (at least in this post) means pH, GH and KH, not ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and other forms of waste. All fish should have perfect water parameters when in comes to nitrogenous wastes, but it is not necessarily needed when it comes chemistry.

So do not always trust those guides and such, they can lead one astray. Especially when it comes to water chemsitry!

The Importance of The Water Change

Water changes. We do them religiously every week/month/year(!) but, why? Well like so many other things we do with our aquaria, there are many reasons, and for the most part, they are used to get rid of build ups of certain unwanted substances. One of the things that builds up are nitrogenous wastes. With the nitrogen “cycle” over a period of time nitrites will begin to build up. Although plants do absorb nitrites, unless you have a heavily planted aquarium they will not be able to cope with the average stocking levels in our aquairia. When we do a water change, we get rid of some of the nitrites. Another thing that builds up are hormones. Yep, hormones. Fish naturally excrete them and can be harmful, especially to fry and eggs when they build up. Also, what about all that gunk? You know what I am talking about. That pile of fish poop, food, plant waste and such that builds up in between that red rock and that piece of driftwood in your tank? Well with your siphon and gravel vacuum, you can take care of it!

How To.

So the water change does all that, but how do you actually do one. Effectively? Well generally one uses a long, flexible, plastic tube and a bucket. To start the siphon, either 1. Suck on the end of the tubing that is out of the tank, with the other end under water. (Be careful! Do not swallow any of the tank water! It can contain harmful bacteria and microbes!) 2. Take the siphon and fill it with tap water from your sink, with one end covered by your finger. Then simply place the end that is covered into your aquarium and the other end over the bucket and let go! With the siphon sucking water out of the tank, fill up your bucket and then dispose of it. (Your house plants will love it!) You can also use the in-tank end to suck up any mulm and such that has built up. Nowadays though, most serious hobbyists use Python “No Spill and Fill” aquarium vac’s. These babies attach to your nearest faucet and allow you to siphon water form you tank and refill without any buckets! Purty sweet right? Just remember to treat your tap water before putting it into your tank!
Water Changes in Nature
You heard right. Water changes in nature. Sure a big giant doesn’t use his magical bucket and siphon to clean the oceans and rivers. But nature has its own way of cleaning itself. Think about it. In a lake over time water evaporates and is replaced by rain water, the trees and plants surrounding (and in) it take care of the nitrogenous waste and in streams, what is constantly flowing to the ocean and being replaced? All in all, it is the best water change system ever created.

So next time you are in the middle of doing a water change, think about all the good you are doing your fish!