Friday, July 27, 2007

Cooling an Aquarium

As it is the height of summer here in the northern hemisphere and the temperatures in my tanks can get as high as 85F (30C) I figured a post on cooling an aquarium would be relevant and useful. If you don't have air conditioning in the room where your aquarium is located or in your home at all, these tips can help to reduce the stress on your aquarium.

Just like the sun on a hot summer day, the lighting in your aquarium is probably responsible for most of the heat raising the temperature in your aquarium. With planted aquariums, the lighting often gets very hot and if the temperature of the room where the aquarium is is high as well, this can rapidly warm the water. Therefore, one of the ways to cool your aquarium is to cool your lights. Cooling the aquarium lights also helps to extend the lives of the bulbs, so if your lighting doesn't come with any sort of ventilation fans, consider adding some. They can be purchased at almost any aquarium supply shop or online.

Another way to cool your lights is to raise them up off any sort of canopy you may have. This will improve air flow around them and in turn reduce their temperatures. Also, removing an aquarium lid or canopy can also reduce the temperature in the aquarium through evaporation. As the water evaporates, it cools the remaining water and with the top of the aquarium open, evaporation occurs much more rapidly. The downside to this is you will have to top up your aquarium much more frequently to make up for the increase in evaporation.

For a simple and cheap way to cool your lights and your aquarium at the same time, try placing a regular household fan next to your aquarium at water level so it is blowing across the top of the water. Or you can get specially designed aquarium cooling fans like the ones above. By moving air across the surface, you are increasing the rate of evaporation and therefore cooling the remaining water. The moving air will also cool the lights. Again, the downside to this approach is watching the water level and topping it off to make up for all that water being lost.

If you have money to spend, the best option for cooling an aquarium is a chiller. These are not cheap and are usually at least $500 but it is basically an air conditioner for your aquarium. Some use electricity and a semiconductor to cool the water and others move the water past coolant. I would only really recommend these if you have money to burn or if you live in an area where the temperature of your tank is consistently pushing 85-90F (30-32C) and you are trying to keep heat sensitive specimens such as shrimp.

A final, and marginally effective method is to do partial water changes with cool water. A word of warning here: do not use very cold water and do not change a lot of the water at once. Large temperature swings will be very stressful on your fish and could end up in illness or death. Instead, change small amounts with slightly cooler water often. Another idea I've seen discussed is to use a small plastic container floated on the surface full of ice. As long as you have good circulation in your aquarium and as long as it isn't too much ice, this should work alright as well. However neither method will bring the temperature down very low without a lot of effort.

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Iwagumi Rock Placement Animations

Sorry about the broken links, the website ( seems to have disappeared. I'm trying to find the images elsewhere but not having much luck. Hopefully the website will be back up soon.

Sorry it's been a while since the last post, it's been a combination of a hectic personal life and running out of post ideas for the most part. I'm still looking for another worthy tank to analyze for an Aquascape Analysis so that should be up sometime before the end of the month.

For now, take a look at these animated images found on They detail the different layers of rock used in an iwagumi aquascape:

You'll also notice that the first stone placed is placed according to the Golden Rule of Aquascaping.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Malaysian Trumpet Snail Time Lapse Video

This video is a little bit creepy but fascinating to watch as it shows a swarm of Malaysian Trumpet Snails consuming a patch of algae on the aquarium glass. It also demonstrates just how useful snails can be!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Growing Beautiful Aquatic Mosses

Aquatic mosses can be some of the most beautiful aquatic plants if grown correctly and given the right environment. Wispy fronds of all shapes and configurations can add texture and detail to any aquascape. However, one unique aspect of most aquatic mosses is that their appearance is highly dependent on their environment. This can make the difference between a lush, full wall of Christmas moss and a stringy tangled mess. Here are some tips to get the most out of your aquatic moss, whether it be simple Java Moss or Peacock Moss:

Mosses love light. Although they will survive in minimal light (especially the ever hardy Java Moss) they will grow scraggly and stringy and grow very slowly. The more light you give your moss, the faster and fuller it will grow.

Mosses grow best attached to something. This is their epiphytic nature. They can attach to almost anything using strong anchor fibers, but the best options are rocks or driftwood. Simply tie the moss down onto an object and within a week or two it will be safe to remove the string. If you let your moss drift around, it will grow stringy and be much less attractive.

- Mosses grow much better with CO2. Although not needed, growth is dramatically affected by CO2. When I first added CO2, my Christmas moss took off and grew very rapidly. Combined with higher light and being attached to something, it also makes the moss more dense and healthy looking.

- Avoid moss eating fish and bugs. Siamese algae eaters top out the list here as the worst offenders, but there are also reports of small bug-like animals that can also devour whole stands of moss in days. If you see stripped fronds or notice your moss looking more stringy than usual and you have an offender in your tank, you are best off moving them or trying to feed them enough so they don't take to snacking on your moss.

Periodically clean out your moss. Moss works as an excellent filter, trapping all sorts of debris. The trouble is, this also encourages nasty types of algae to grow, including Blue Green Algae. When you change your water, run your fingers through the moss and shake out any loose debris, making sure to remove as much of it as possible from the tank.

Avoid algae at all costs. It is next to impossible to clean any type of algae out of moss. Often, if your moss becomes infested with algae, you'll have to rip it out the affected areas completely. The fronds are just too small and delicate. Instead, maintain adequate CO2 levels and fertilize regularly to fend off algae.

- Mosses love being trimmed. As much as a pain in the butt it can be to try to trim moss and clean up all the cuttings, it will grow back thicker and fuller. There really is no strategy, just trim it back with scissors and try desperately to catch all the small pieces (otherwise you'll have moss sprouting up all over your tank!)

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