FAQ-Aquariums and Water

How do I setup my tank?

Basic tank setup depends on the type of fish. Fresh water setup:

    1. Filter under gravel with air pump

    2. Optional outside filter
    3. Gravel 1 to 2 lb per gallon..
Lights fluorescent with hood
    5. Decorations depend on type of fish and your personal preference.
    6. Plants, rocks, driftwood, etc. 

    7. Food: basic flake, premium pellet, frozen foods and or optional live food.
    8. heater with thermostat
    9. thermometer
    10. cover

    11. Stand (metal or wood)

Advanced setup:

a) Filters: under gravel filter with power head, outside filter box or canister type, inside box or sponge filter etc.

See this article in more detail, Setting up my aquarium

How often do I feed my fish?

Feeding your fish - It is best to feed small portions two or three times a day. Only feed your fish all they will consume in about five minutes. When you see their bellies bulging or they swim away from available food stop immediately. The secret is small portions, a well-fed fish will eat only as much as their stomachs can hold and digest the food over time. Again only feed your fish all they will consume in about five minutes. Any uneaten food adds to the biological load of the tank and must be broken down by natural bacteria. Even the most efficient filtration system cannot trap and process all the uneaten foods. Also give your fish live or frozen food, these foods will supply even more of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to grow and breed.

What do I feed my fish?

(food types should match the species of fish)
As with any pet the wider variety of foods you feed your fish the healthier they will be.

Dry foods- either flake or pellet type

  • Frozen foods (should be thawed before serving)
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Mysis
  • Krill
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Spirulina
  • Blood worm
  • Black worms
  • Daphnia

Live foods

  • Earthworms
  • Red worms

  • Black worms

  • Live Brine
  • Shrimp

  • Feeder Gold Fish (3 sizes available in our store) 

  • Minnows, 
, Shrimp
, Crayfish (when available)

My water is hazy, what do I do?

If you have just started your aquarium, or changed the gravel and are experiencing a grayish discoloration of the aquarium water, don’t worry this is normal. The gravel was probably still had some dirt in it. The free-floating dirt particles should settle and get trapped in the external filtration or gravel bed fairly quickly.

A light haze after siphoning the gravel is also harmless, and is likely caused by the minor disturbance of the gravel bed. This usually clears up within 24 hours.

My water is yellow colored, is this normal?

A yellow discoloration or brown tint is typically attributed to high levels of dissolved organic matter. This can cause the pH to drop significantly, posing harm to the health of your aquarium fish. Depending on the types of decorations used in your tank, driftwood for example, they may be giving off natural chemical called tannin. Tannins are released by the driftwood decomposing in the water. Tannins also act as a natural pH buffering agent lowering the pH level from a neutral value of 7.0 to a more acidic value. For some species of fish, slightly acidic water is normal. Many tropical fish from South America live in this type of water. Check with our staff members to assist you with determining the appropriate action to take.

My water is a cloudy, green color, what do I do?

Cloudy green water is the result of an algae bloom. When conditions are right i.e. plenty of light, plenty of food waste, and warm water temperature naturally occurring algae begins to bloom. Partial water changes and treatment of active bacteria or enzyme control, will control and reduce the bloom.  Another step to take is to reduce the amount of light the aquarium receives. In addition to the steps above, call us at the store and we can go over additional steps to help clear up the condition. Another important step is to do a partial water change and check the nitrate levels in the water. High levels of nitrate can cause an algae bloom very quickly.

My water is cloudy white color, what do I do?

White cloudy water is a result of a bacteria bloom. There are several causes that may trigger a bacteria bloom. 
Sometimes the cleaning of all the filters at one time or the cleaning the gravel bed can trigger it, due to the removal of bacterial colonies that have settled on and live in the filter media or substrate and the release of trapped food particles.

Another cause can be medical treatment of the tank using antibiotics, chemical treatments such as copper, methylene blue and others which may destroy these bacteria colonies. These chemicals are used in the treatment of a disease or parasite problem.
Additional trigger events maybe over feeding with flake or pellet foods even occasional heavy feeding of live foods. Heating the water to a higher temperature, 85 degrees may also trigger the bloom. Over crowding the aquarium with too many fish is another potential problem.

The bacteria blooms are signs of either re-establishing themselves, or crowding the aquarium due to favorable conditions (poor water quality), multiplying at such a high rate that the water becomes cloudy white. 
A bacteria bloom is cause for concern, bacteria need oxygen. A few grams of bacteria consume about the same amount as an adult human, posing a threat of de-oxygenation in the aquarium. Immediate action is required if the problem is severe, or persists. 

It is also advisable to check on ammonia or nitrites, during the period of a bacteria bloom, as ammonia or nitrites may soar to dangerous levels. There are water testing kits specifically designed for use in testing aquarium water.

If you do get white cloudy water you need to take action. Partial water changes will help address the immediate concern but the underlying cause(s) need to be identified to prevent a reoccurrence from happening. Call us for advice at 708-293-0600 and we can assist you in dealing with the problem.

What are water changes and why is it important?

Water changes are a major key to a successful fish tank and healthy fish. Two things happen after an aquarium is setup and running. First, evaporation, water evaporates and leaves behind minerals and salts that are present in all water. Second, biological materials such as, fish waste, leftover food, bacteria and other biological material accumulate and will eventually contaminate the water to the point where it will not support life. By siphoning out approximately 20% of the water once a week and a larger 25% every 4 weeks with gravel cleanings, fresh clean water (if chlorine is used in the tap water make sure to age the water for 24 hours or use a de-chlorination chemical.) The replacement water will help reduce the mineral and salts and biological materials in your tank. It will also help insure that your fish have a good environment to grow. Replacement water should be at the same temperature as the aquarium water. Here’s a green recycling tip; if you have indoor or outdoor plants, you can use the water you drained to give your plants a drink and feed them a natural fertilizer.

What temperature should keep my tank at?

Water temperature is dependent on the species and type of fish you have. For example gold fish prefer cool water with a temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical fish prefer temperatures from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Most fish will tolerate gradual temperature changes above or below their normal ranges for short periods of time without ill effects. Sudden temperature changes should be avoided, as fish will become stressed and susceptible to disease.
There are some species of fish that have requirements outside what is considered normal range, it  may be higher or lower temperatures. Discus and angelfish for example, are some fish that need a somewhat higher temperature,78 to 82 degrees.  If you have questions about the right temperature call us at 708-293-0600.

Do I need to test my water? How do I do it?

Testing your tap water is usually not required. Your city or town  water department goes through extensive testing to insure the water quality is safe to use for human consumption. We recommend the use of a de-choloration product, “DeCholor” for example, to remove the traces of chlorine that is in normal tap water.
However, if you are on a well system for your water supply you may want to test the water to determine, the pH of the water, hardness and other chemicals that maybe present. A good quality water test kit can measure the most common factors and provide readings within +/- 5%. It is important when purchasing a test kit to check the expiration date as most of the chemicals and test strips have a limited shelf life.

If you have and questions or would like us to test your water for you call 708-293-0600 and we will assist you.

What water values should I look for when I test my water?

This is a question that involves several factors that need to be explained.

  • First is pH. pH Measures the acidity of the water by using test kits, electronic probes, and various other testing devices.  A pH reading of 7.0 is neutral.  A pH reading of above 7.0 is alkaline, and a pH of less than 7.0 is acidic.  Fish can survive in a pH range from 5.0-9.5.  Different aquarium setups and different species of fish have different pH levels requirements. Knowing the pH value of your water will help in selecting  fish that will live comfortably in your aquarium. Most of the tropical fish Animal Island Pets sells are acclimated to "Chicago Water".
  • Second is salinity. Salinity is measured mainly in Specific Gravity (SG), and Conductivity (C) by use of a hydrometer or electronic probe.  Saltwater is heavier than freshwater. Freshwater tanks should have an SG of 1.000-1.005.  Most marine tanks should have an SG of  1.020-1.025. Testing the salinity of freshwater is not usually necessary but if you use a water softner you may want to have it tested.
  • Third is Ammonia (NH3) Measured in milligrams per liter (mg/l), or parts per million (ppm), most commonly with a test kit. Ammonia is a highly toxic chemical caused by the decomposition of fish waste, decaying food, and dead fish. Unfortunately, ammonia can be found in nearly all aquariums.  Ammonia is the number one killer of tropical fish.  With an ammonia level of 6 ppm in a freshwater aquarium, the death rate may be as high as 50
  • Fourth Nitrite (NO2) is measured in mg/l or ppm, usually measured with test kits or electronic probes.  Nitrite is a toxic waste material found in varying concentrations in most aquariums.  It is produced by the nitrifying bacteria Nitrosomonas in the biological filter as it breaks down ammonia.  As the biological filter develops and grows, the nitrifying bacteria uses nitrite as a food source, converting it to non-toxic nitrate.  This reduces the level of nitrite in the aquarium.  Regular testing for nitrite is important because even low levels of nitrite affect the red blood cells of fish by reducing their ability to carry oxygen, thus causing suffocation, and death.
  • Fifth Nitrate (NO3) is measured in mg/l or ppm by using test kits or electronic probes.  Nitrate is also produced in an aquarium, mainly by the bacteria Nitrobacter.  This occurs in the biological filter.  These, along with other beneficial bacteria in the biological filter convert toxic ammonia, and nitrite, into nitrate. A high nitrate level indicates a build-up of fish waste and organic compounds resulting in poor water quality and contributes to the likelihood of fish disease.  Excessive nitrate also provides a nitrogen source which can stimulate algae blooms. 
  • Sixth General hardness (GH) is measured in mg/l or ppm.  GH is mainly a test for freshwater aquaria.  Test kits are used to measure this most often.  General hardness is the measure of calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) ion concentrations dissolved in water.  These minerals are present in municipal water supplies, well, and bottled spring water.  De-ionized water and water process through reverse osmosis often lacks these necessary minerals. The level of general hardness depends on the source of the water and the treatment processes it has undergone.  Hard water (>200 ppm) is high in calcium and magnesium, while soft water (50-100 ppm) is low in these minerals.  If you need advice on which species of fish would do well in your aquarium using your water supplier contact us at 708-293-0600.
  • Seventh Carbonate hardness (KH) is measured in mg/l, ppm, or the German dKH. Carbonate hardness (also known as alkalinity) is the measure of carbonate (CO3-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) ion concentrations dissolved in water.  These minerals are present in municipal, well, and bottled spring water.  Carbonate hardness helps stabilize pH in the aquarium.  An aquarium with a low KH level (50 ppm or less) will tend to be acidic.  Aquariums with very low KH are also subject to rapid pH shifts, if not monitored carefully.  Water with a high KH level (>200 ppm) usually has a high pH
  • Eigthth Oxygen ( O2) is measured as dissolved oxygen (DO) in mg/l and ppm.  Oxygen is essential for nearly all types of life.  It may be measured with test kits or electronic probes. Water circulation with an air pump or mechanical power filter with a fair amount of disturbance at the surface of the water will maintain a good supply of dissolved oxygen.  Most tanks should have a DO reading from 7-10 ppm.
  • Ninth Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is measured by monitoring pH values (see above) by using testing kit's or devices.  Carbon dioxide testing is of special interest to freshwater plant aquarists

However if you live in an area where the water quality coming out of the tap is consistently good then testing the water regularly is really not necessary. Water changes on a scheduled basis and proper maintenance should be sufficient. Water quality testing becomes more important as you expand your knowledge as an aquarist and want to raise and breed more exotic or rarer species of fish.

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Animal Island Pets
14411 S Cicero Av.
Midlothian IL 60445

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Sat & Sun 10am to 6pm
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