It’s summer here, and I’ve noticed several tips going around for rabbits, dogs, and reptiles, but none for fish, so I thought I’d write up a few tips on keeping your fin friends cool during a heat wave, especially if you don’t have air conditioning!
Cool the Room
First, focus on the room where your fish are located. Try to keep your fish in the coolest room, dark and away from windows, if possible.
* Keep your drapes closed during daylight hours.
* Turn off room lights. Turn off other electronics. Unplug stuff.
* Be mindful of airflow in your home. If the fish room is generally cooler than the others, keep the interior door closed. If it’s hotter, keep the door open, and even aim a large box fan out the door to draw hot air from the room into the rest of the house.
* Use a fan to draw hot air from the room outside, by placing it in the window facing out. If the temperature outside drops to lower than the temperature indoors, turn the fan around to draw cooler air in at night. If possible block the area around the fan with cardboard or something similar.
* Aim a fan at a large, shallow bowl of ice. Tilt the bowl towards the fan so the fan is blowing directly on the ice. A metal bowl works best (acts as a heat sink). Ceramic is second best. Alternately, blow a fan on gallon plastic jugs of frozen water (when you fill them to freeze, be sure to leave extra space for the water to expand). Replace the ice as needed, but even cool water will help a little.
* Go for stable room temperatures. Even houses with AC, particularly those with small room units, can suffer from fluctuations. Remember, stable temperatures are best for fish, even if they’re a little high. If whatever you’re doing to try to cool your tanks is causing fluctuations, you might need to move your tanks to somewhere safer in the house. Keep an eye on those temps! Some thermometers have max high and low readouts, and these are very helpful.
Cooling the Tank
After you’ve worked on the room itself, then you can start to focus on your fish tanks.
* If your tank is only a few degrees above your fish’s maximum preferred temperature, but stable, it’s best not to mess with it too much. For example for bettas, 82 is fine, if not ideal, and they can handle a temperature of 84 for a week okay; they come from tropical areas with extreme temperatures and live in shallow bodies of water. But if you’re getting up to the higher 80s or 90s, you must do something. However, cold water fish like goldfish, or deep water fish, which are less used to large temperature swing, like lake cichlids, may be more sensitive to temperature swings depending on species. Remember, stable temperatures are the most important; do not shock your fish.
* Add extra aeration. Warmer water holds less oxygen, leading to stress for your fish, especially cool water fish. Also, aeration can pull in cooler air from near your ice fan, for example, to help cool the water.
* Replace the glass lid with a screen lid or a lid made out of plastic canvas. Remove the hood. Turn off the tank lights. (Don’t remove the lid entirely if you have a jumping species or cats or other dangers!)
* For temperate and cold water fish (and amphibians) in the summer, it can be lifesaving to invest in a chiller. These are expensive but many are cheaper than air conditioning units (and many cold water fish prefer temps below room temperature even with air conditioning).
* Do small water changes often with water cooler than tank temp. For many tropical fish (particularly those who don’t come from deep water) this mimics natural conditions where a rainstorm would lower the temperature, so it is okay to do. Do not, however, do a large water change with vastly different temperatures. This could shock your fish! Also, as a warning, this can stimulate breeding behavior in some species, which for some species does involve some aggression, so keep an eye on your fin friends in community tanks.
* Float dechlorinated ice in your tank inside of some sort of closed container (baggies or an aquarium-safe bottle). The ice cubes must be made of dechlorinated water properly treated for your fish, in case the container leaks. (Let people know not to use your “special ice” in their drinks and smoothies. Haha.) Use really high quality baggies (and possibly double-bag them), mostly because otherwise they’ll sink and you’ll have to fish them out. A water bottle also works. Replace as the ice melts. Keep an eye on your temps, to see how many ice cubes you’ll need per day and how often you have to replace them.
* For sensitive fish, drip cooler water into the tank slowly over time. You’ll have to keep a close eye on this method (so you don’t cause a flood, mostly), and it’s best if you’re home if you use it. If you look up “drip acclimation” you can see how to physically set this up, but the purpose is different. What you’re going to do is use a line of hose (like airline hose) to drip cool water into the tank, and use another length of hose to drip the too warm water out of the tank. You’ll need a jug or bucket to hold your cold water, and another bucket (as big or bigger) to catch the old water. In the fresh water jug, you’ll want to put in cold water – dechlorinated and properly treated for your fish. You can cool this water with dechlorinated and treated ice cubes. Run a siphon line into the fish tank. An airline holder is useful to keep the hose from moving and spilling water all over your house. Using knots in the line, or better yet an airline control valve, control the rate of flow to around 2-4 drips per second. Use another line to drip out of the tank into your catch bucket at the same rate. Be sure your buckets are bigger than the amount of water going in and out so you don’t have a spill. Be sure to do this steadily, keep the cool water refreshed so you don’t cause fluctuations in the tank!
Meet the new shrimps! (There are 3 but the third hid immediately)
Since I don’t have a betta in there anymore I thought it would be safe to add some red cherry shrimp to the tetra tank! I did my first drip acclimation so I’m pretty dang proud of that
10+1 red cherry shrimps from Alpha Pro Breeders came in the mail today. Packaging was A+: plenty of insulation and everything was packed in tightly.
They came in these Kordon Breather Bags with a bit of netting for the shrimp to hang on to during transit. The water was very cold and the shrimps were dull in color, some were almost gray.
Placed them into a small container and they colored right up.
Added a drop of Prime to neutralize ammonia. I know their bioload is negligible but I did this out of habit. It's highly recommended when you're acclimating fish (ammonia builds up in the transport water and un-ionized ammonia is very toxic at only 0.2 ppm).
Btw, this pack of 100 pipettes was only $3.79 on Amazon ;)
Cut up some airline tubing and attached an air control valve to one end. The kit was a couple dollars at Petco. Individual pieces are <$1.
The control valves
I bought the pack instead of the individual piece because it came with these suction cups that were able to hold the tubing.
Had to suck on the tubing to get it started - it didn't take much. Twist the tiny knob to control the flow and we're good :D I leave this for an hour or so then I'll add the shrimp into the tank (lights off), sans water.
Out of curiosity, I tested the water that the shrimp came in. Somebody needs to do a water change . . . GH - 12 KH - 4
What causes pH swings?
How do I change my pH?
What the heck is “hard” water?
pH, GH, & KH
These three things are often overlooked by the Aquarist. Knowing your levels and knowing the basic chemistry can prevent future aquatic life losses in regards to pH.
pH measures how acidic or basic something is. pH 7 is neutral, pH 1 - pH 6.9 is acidic, while pH 7.1 through pH 14 is Alkaline/basic.
A pH drop indicates an increase of Hydrogen cations [H+] - making the water more acidic.
Reversely, a pH increase would mean an increase of hydroxide anions [OH -] or Hydroxil ions - making the water more alkaline/basic.
The presence of these + - ions is how we measure the pH of our water.
GH aka General Hardness or Total Hardness, measures the total other minerals in the water such as Magnesium, Sodium ,Sulfur , Chlorine, Potassium, etc….
High GH corresponds to what’s called “Hard” water. Hard water fishes need more minerals like Magnesium which helps with their breathing, immunity, and bone growth. Hard water also absorbs heavy metals thus reducing toxicity of them in water.
Low GH has low mineral content and is “Soft” water. Care must be taken when dosing with medications such as copper as they are more easily absorbed by the fish. Soft water fish don’t need as many minerals and thus it’s harder for them to adjust to hard water. It’s easier for hard water fish to adjust to soft, however.
KH is the measure of bicarbonate and carbonate ions in water-Carbonate Hardness. These prevent the pH from budging at all.
It’s a pH stabilizer.
So when someone says “whats your water hardness” likely they mean KH because a stable KH is important to a stable aquarium pH.
A drop in KH, or KH+GH together means a swing in pH. But for kicks and giggles give them all three values.
Things that can cause + or - pH swings…
Excessive Fertilizer. Broken Down Urea molecules = slightly acidic , Broken Down Ammonia molecules = slightly alkaline compounds : nitrifying bacteria lower the kH slightly
Excessive CO2 - Carbon Dioxide being absorbed into the water or injected in the water…lowers kH and therefore pH
Plant processes (They give out Hydrogen ions or Hydroxil ions depending on what they absorb) most of the time they lower the kH potentially causing swings if water top offs aren’t preformed
any excessive acidic intake or any excessive alkaline intake…adding buffers or different substrates, marine salt , etc
R/O reverse osmosis water which has a neutral pH and no minerals whatsoever
Lack of water top offs and water changes to replace any loss of kH…
Chemicals. Chemicals leaking from decorations or dropped accidentally in the water…some medications
How do I change my pH and keep it there?
Increasing or lowering the pH and keeping it stable can be tricky. The easiest and most preferred way to change your pH is to change your water source to one with preferable levels.
It’s not wise to only add pH changing chemicals (ie pH Up or pH Down) to a water source that already has a low kH value. The water will shift dramatically and potentially kill the fish.
To Raise pH: Increase KH or GH+KH by using Aquarium buffers and if needed coral substrate or marine salt or even egg shells. The buffers will keep the water from shifting.There are many kinds of buffers to suit your desired pH level.
To Lower pH: A lot more complicated. To lower pH you must lower the mineral content in the water. You could try using chemical buffers+CO2 dosing, peat moss, etc …. Though that is very dangerous and must be done with extreme caution Every Time you add new water to the tank. It’s very difficult to control!!!
Frankly the safest and easiest way to do it is through the use of R/O - reverse osmosis water.
R/O water + slight buffer would need to be introduced to the tank water very slowly to gradually reduce the pH. After some time you would be completely converted to R/O water + kH buffers as your only water source. You have to add the buffering minerals back into the water! If you don’t have an R/O unit of your own this can be costly, about 60 cents per gallon of water!
All wildlife can only tolerate small swings of pH. There are some animals that cannot handle any change at all.
Most fish and aquatic plants however are able to adapt to a wide range of pH levels and most are already happily acclimated to water in your local area at the fish store. Most of the time no pH change is necessary.
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS drip acclimate your new fish. The bagging method is not enough if your parameters are vastly different from the fish’s natural habitat and/or from the fish store water. Drip acclimation DIY instructions are everywhere and a simple one can be made by tying a knot on a spare airline.
Well Water that is run through a water softener may have the magnesium+calcium ions that are converted into SODIUM ions. This will kill plants & some fish that are salt sensitive. Change your water source in this case if needed.
so! without further ado, the porcupine puffer story, aka how I met literally the dumbest customers I’ve ever had.
[SCENE] a few hours earlier, I notice the porcupine puffer that I hand fed is sold. I’m feeding the corals when a mother and teenage son come in and want some saltwater fish. they point to a yellow tang and only want two chromies (“little blue things”) and a “nemo”. I am immediately concerned.
me: ah, alright. do you already have some chromies in your tank?
son: those blue things? no.
me: ah, you really need a school for them. what size is is your tank?
son: really big like… big.
me: ……. ah, alright. what’s in it?
son: a big spiny puffer. we got it here. he needs friends
mother: it’s a brand new tank
me: have you had any fish tanks before?
both of them: no
me: …. well, a puffer is pretty aggressive and they get like a foot long. your chromies & clownfish and probably your tang would be toast. you said it was a brand new tank… is it cycled?
son: well we ran water through it for a couple hours.
me: ….. do you have live rock? live sand?
son: yeah! there’s rock!!!!!
me: [points to our live rock] rock like this?
son: sure!!! we have rocks!!!!!!!
mother: [to son] …do your rocks look like this?
son: nOT EXaCTLY BUT WE HAVE ROCK. LIVE ROCK.
we then go through this song and dance questionnaire. the kid starts getting really really bratty. I tell them it’s not a good idea to add more fish to a brand new tank because there’s a high risk that it’ll kill evERYTHING and that their puffer is already in a dangerous situation. I should probably mention that this is a $80 puffpuff we’re talking about.
son: well if stuff dies it’s just like some cheap fish. we’ll just return them
me: your puffer cost $80
son: well we’ll just return him too then!!!
I explain our return policy and how we don’t return fish if they die because of aggression or poor water quality. the son is pissed we have this policy and doesn’t understand why this is a thing.
son: wELL I JUST WANT MORE FISH IN THE TANK I’M GETTING MORE FISH
me: well….. I can sell you more fish but I’ll have to void your warranty. I suggest at least bringing me a water sample first.
mother: [fiNALLY PUTS HER FOOT DOWN] we should do that. come on.
she pretty much drags the kid outta the store and he’s complaining and being a little shit. I go back to my work. they come in a few hours later for a water sample for me. I test it. the water is separating in an extremely weird way when I add regent to the test tube.
me: okay, so your salinity is 1.028. that’s way too high. do you have a hydrometer? and your ammonia is at 1.5 ppm & your nitrate is at 10. that’s extremely dangerous. how are you mixing your salt water?
mother: we have one of those salt monitor things it goes inside the tank and it has a thermometer at the other end. [this is literally the one of the worst if now THE WORST hydrometer on the market]
mother: he adds the drop things too.
me: you’re using…. tap….. water?
son: YES WE PUT THE DROP THINGS AND THEN THE SALT STUFF
mother: what’s ammonia??
me: …………I suggest not getting any more fish and returning the puffer. I’ll give you your money back.
son: wELL HOW DO I FIX IT THEN???????
mother: how long do you think the puffer will live?
me: I give him another 24 hours, at most.
son: [beginning to throw a hissy fit] WELL HOW DO I FIX IT THEN. I GOT THE BIGGEST TANK THEY HAD!!!!!
me: ……did it come in a kit? like a guaranteed success kit?
mother: yes that’s the one.
me: O____O that’s… really only a great kit for freshwater….. can you show me the other supplies you bought? do you have a powerhead?
son: what’s that.
[juST SLAY ME]
mother: [to son] did you do any research aT ALL????
son: I GOT EVERYTHING FOR IT GEEZ AND THE PERSON AT PETCO HELPED
now I’m wary because there’s no way someone at petco could actually be this stupid. employees not certified in fish aren’t supposed to be selling saltwater fish/etc at all. there’s some miscommunication somewhere. I’m guessing petco thought they were getting a FRESHWATER puffpuff.
me: okay…… well let’s take a trip to our supplies section and you can show me the stuff you bought.
I show them the rock and the son is like wELL IT KINDA LOOKS LIKE THIS BUT IT’s blue and white!!! he’s talking about aquarium gravel. HE THINKS BLUE AND WHITE GRAVEL AQUARIUM GRAVEL IS LIVE ROCK. I tell them they need the kind of live rock I pointed out earlier pLUS sand and that no you can’t use aquarium gravel in a salt tank. the mother is confused and asks why. I’m like….. well whenever you talk about any saltwater fish their natural substrate…. is sand…… because they live in the ocean….
me: you are definitely going to need sand for a saltwater tank. [points to live sand] AND live rock. that’s your biological filtration. for your nitrogen cycle.
mother and son: what’s that
I explain it to them and they look very confused. the mother looks at her bratty kid and asks if he did any research. he throws a tantrum. the kid is like 15 and to say he’s acting like a four year old is an insult to four year olds. he’s trying to convince his mom to just buy him actual live sand and rock so he can just plunk it in with his shitty tetra filter.
mother: how many pounds of live rock do we need?
me: ……. like 75lbs. at leAST.
mother: OKAY THIS IS WAY TOO COMPLICATED WE’RE BRINGING THE PUFFER BACK.
me: okay that’s great. and I’m happy to help you with your new setup
I lend them a bucket and they come back with my puffpuff a few hours later. I process their return. I start drip acclimating him and the mother and son are squabbling because the kid wants all the supplies and thinks he can set up the new tank overnight. the mother is trying to shut him up and shut him down. I walk by and they’re looking at one of our planted show tanks. the mother stops me for a second.
mother: we’ve got plants like this in the tank, but they aren’t doing so well???
So I know that there are tons of fish that are super hella bad for first time fish owners, but what kind of fish would you reccommend for a beginner? (I literally don't trust anyone else to answer this tbh)
well, obviously first and foremost, i recommend a betta! they’re incredibly hardy little guys and a great one-on-one buddy that have a ton of personality, if the thought of having a ton of fish to watch out for stresses you out i think this might be your best bet(ta)
if you like a pretty, small fish that hangs out in a group, neon tetras are a great fish! they thrive best in schools of 6+, but beware of their sensitivity; it’s well known that bringing home a school of neon tetras guarantees a couple casualties in the first 24h, so get a big school and be prepared for a long drip-acclimation!
Another super pretty fish is a guppy! These little guys are so much fun to watch and they come in so many different colours! remember though, like many fish there can be aggression issues: the best bet if having multiple guppies is to get 2 females for 1 male, more gals the better!
A lot of people recommend 100% water changes on here.
Which is fine, sometimes they’re necessary.
But an important part of that gets missed - you can’t just plunk your fish back into your tank after you completely switch out all the water!
Water parameters in our tanks change over time for a lot of different reasons in a lot of different ways - and I’m not just talking about the nitrogen cycle. TDS, pH, gH, kH…those parameters we don’t much think about and rarely test for can undergo a lot of gradual change from the things we put in our tanks.
If you plop your fish into new water with even one notably different parameter, it could go into shock or die. That is a LOT of stress on them. Think if you were suddenly teleported from way below sea level to way above. You couldn’t breathe.
So if you do large water changes, you need to acclimate your fish slowly. If it’s 100%, drip acclimate. If it’s less than that, even if its just a 50% change, make sure you add your water SLOWLY and keep an eye out for signs of stress. It’s much better to let your tank run a little low for a day or two while you add water as your fish can handle it than to add it all at once and watch your fish struggle for their lives.
Trust me, it sucks to lose fish over something so easily preventable.
(But whenever possible, frequent small changes are much better than spaced out large ones.)