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Aquaria FAQ
This page covers, in brief, some recurring questions on the uk, rec and alt aquaria newsgroups. It only covers those with simple answers - for more specific or involved issues please do ask the newsgroups, try searching TheKrib or consult your fish shop.

When posting to a newsgroup include as many factors as possible such as water parameters (pH, nitrite, and hardness for starters), how long the tank has been established, what size it is and which fish you have. This will enable people to help.

I have found some small white worms in my tank, what are they?
They are harmless Planaria worms, although usually found in dirtier tanks so maybe you should do a gravel vacuum more often and reduce the amount you are feeding.

What can I do to get rid of snails? Do fish eat snails?
You can get commercial products to kill snails such as "Snail-Away". Alternatively loaches love to eat snails, how about a Yoyo loach or a Kuhli loach which will fit even a small tank?

Why do people write "Pl*co" and not "Pleco"?
There is a myth that if you write the word "pleco" it will die. Hasn't hurt mine yet!

What is "cycling"?
It is the process of maturing a tank so that it is safe for the fish. Every new tank owner needs to go through this. I've written a
beginners' guide to setting up and maturing your first tank which explains it.

Should I add salt to my freshwater tank?
That primarily depends on what fish you have - some need salt, some hate it, many may benefit from a little.
Here is a short thread which outlines the basic pros and cons.

How much should I feed my fish?
A few rules of thumb: Your fish's stomach will be roughly the size of its eye; this should help you envisage how much it can hold. Also, a hungry, keen fish is preferred to a fat sluggish one! So it is better to underfeed than overfeed. Frequency is up to you; if you prefer to feed in small amounts twice a day that is fine - however once a day with a few days a week without food should also be fine. Whatever you choose, make sure you only feed what can be eaten in a few minutes so that there is no waste food to contaminate the tank. Other than due to sickness fish don't tend to starve!

My water is cloudy. What is it?
It could be many things such as bacterial bloom if you have a new tank or the filter has been compromised, or a white precipitate in hard water where phosphate based pH adjuster has been used. Try asking one of the newsgroups, but remember to detail your specific circumstances so the cause can be pinned down for your situation.

My water is a funny colour. What is it?
If it's a yellow-brown tint, it could be from bogwood or coconut leaching colour into the water, or from peat filtration. If you use any of these things, you could suspect them. Soak the items in boiling water for ten minutes before use, to remove much of the leaching colour. Using carbon in your filter should clear up any further colour pigment fairly quickly.

If it's a green-yellow tint, it could be from algae creating "green water". Is your tank in direct sunlight? A way to reduce this is to keep the tank in darkness for a few days, and stop direct sunlight hitting the tank in future. Alternatively you could try a diatom filter.

I've got something I want to put in my tank. Is it ok?
Many things can be used in a tank with no adverse effect. If you have made a coconut shell cave or have a rock etc., be sure to boil it for ten minutes first, to be on the safe side and kill any nasties. If you want to use gravel or rock other than that labelled for aquatic use, beware that broken shell can be sharp and hurt the fish, and that calcium carbonate items will raise pH and KH in the tank (if in doubt, test with a drop of vinegar, if it bubbles then your item contains calcium carbonate.) Food grade plastics can also be used (e.g. tupperware or sandwich bags for transporting fish). If it's a natural item like rock, just boiling should be ok, but if you're in any doubt seek further advice. Make sure you never use items treated with paint, fungicides etc such as scrap wood from outdoors.

How can I calculate the water volume of my aquarium?
Measure the length, height and width of the water in the tank - don't forget to allow for the air at the top or any particularly large items in the tank. Then you can either use
this online calculator to get volume in UK and US gallons, or you can work it out yourself.

Using measurement in inches, multiply length x width x height. This gives cubic inches. To get litres, multiply by 0.01639. Then for UK gallons, multiply litres by 0.2200 or for US gallons, multiply litres by 0.2642. Simple!

And if you measured in centimetres, divide the readings by 2.54 to get inches before you start!

What are the differences between total hardness, general hardness and KH, and why does hardness matter?
In water, you have various ions that cause "hardness". Usually, this is the carbonate ion such as is found in calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate etc. When you have an ion exchange resin or pillow, all it will do is swap them for sodium carbonate, so that the hardness is no longer detectable by the same tests, but there are still carbonates found in water in a different form, so it's not any softer in reality. This is why people often say don't bother buying softener pillows but if you REALLY want to soften water use another way like filtering over peat, or just live with the water you get out of the tap. Originally, hardness was a measure of the ability of water to precipitate soap, and this is affected by calcium and magnesium compounds. Therefore, total hardness - and also "general" hardness - is a measure of all the calcium and magnesium salts in the water, such as (but not limited to) calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Carbonate hardness (KH) is a measure of all the carbonate compounds in the water. It is important, because this acts as a buffer for pH - the higher the hardness, the more difficult it is to alter the pH, so if you have a KH of 2 or 3 it's quite easy for a tiny change to cause your pH to crash. If your KH is say 13 or 14 you will find your pH varies very little, no matter what you do! For what it's worth, I've tried using pH down and pH up (with little success because I had a large KH buffer) and then tried using a powder that you tip in to lower pH - again no good, it formed a cloudy suspension in my hard water and it was ages before the tank was clear again, by which time the pH was back to normal - and now the only way I reduce my pH is by filtering over peat and then mixing that water with tap water to get the right pH and KH, then adding that water to the tank.
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