Okay, we spend so much time, money, ink and bandwidth talking about how to keep your fish healthy and happy that I realized we never seem to talk about what makes them unhappy! That's right. Let's take a look at some things that aquariums DON'T like-and why you should correct the outmoded or incorrect thinking behind these things!
I'll start you off with a few ways that are pretty much guaranteed to tick your fishes off, in point/counterpoint fashion¦
*Constantly move your fishes and plants around and place them into new water conditions, flow regimens, lighting zones, and give 'em new, potentially unfriendly neighbors. Change is good!
Counterpoint: Repeatedly handling and stressing out a fish or plant is a sure recipe for problems, isn't it? They're adaptable, yes- but not always happy to relocate. Ask yourself: How mobile are most plants? Not very, right? I mean, an Amazon Sword, for example, has to slowly spread over to a new location or better situation by putting down a runner and gradually growing into different light and flow conditions. When these change in a natural stream or river ( let's say a rock falls close to a large plant and dramatically changes flow and lighting, or sediment covers it), or a manmade structure appears, the prognosis is often not good. In my opinion, once a plants has rooted and adjusted, it's best left where it is. Far better to plan ahead, and have an idea of the requirements, and therefore the proper placement- of each plant or fish you acquire.
*Never quarantine any new additions to your tank. Best to get them settled into their new home quickly, right? After all, fishes don't usually carry things like ich, parasites, and other pesky things, right? And besides, the store/vendor quarantines their fishes when they get them, and they have a good reputation for nice tanks.
Counterpoint: Quarantine isn't just a practice for public aquariums, well-to-do hobbyists, and uber-hobbyists. It's a procedure that every hobbyist can and should embrace. It doesn't require a large investment in equipment, and the time spend quarantining a new arrival can literally save your tank from a variety of potential pests and maladies. Despite the good efforts by a vendor or LFS, it's extremely difficult for them to eliminate all possibilities of pests or disease in their systems, with tons of fishes and plants from multiple sources flowing in and out constantly. Take charge and become a "DIY Quarantine Maven." The tank you save might be your own!
*When you're trying to figure out what's wrong with your tank, be sure to take drastic, quick, measures, including rapidly increasing pH, alkalinity, temperature, and other environmental factors. I mean, rivers change constantly and very quickly, right?
Counterpoint: Ahh, the "hunt and peck" solution to problems. The aquatic equivalent of "exploratory surgery", I suppose. Well, the goal is good: try to adjust conditions to see if these tweaks make everything better. The problem is, without having some idea what is wrong in the first place, you're starting a potential "wild goose chase", trying to switch this, that, and the other thing in a frantic effort to right what is wrong. In very few cases are drastic, immediate changes imperative (scenarious like a mass die-off, overdoses of additives, chemical poisoning events), requiring large-scale, rapid water changes, etc. Most problems that arise in aquarium systems occur over time, and are the result of cumulative effects of bad habits, incorrect husbandry practices, or fluctuating environmental conditions. Most wild aquatic systems are among the most stable environments on earth. Things change slowly, and when they don't it's a real problem. Quick repairs are neither necessary or beneficial. When a problem arises, try to "back engineer" it; think outside the box, and, as marine aquarium author John Tullock so eloquently stated, "Test, then tweak."
This one is for the reefers out there:
*Don't feed your corals, because they get all the nutrition they need from light, and you should strive to keep your nitrates and phosphates at completely undetectable levels. In fact, make sure that your water is near sterile! Corals don't really need to eat, huh?
Counterpoint: The 1990's called, and they want their husbandry theory back! It's no secret that most of the corals we keep in reefs benefit significantly from regular feedings. There are so many outstanding foods out there today that it is downright backwards thinking NOT to feed your reef! And detectible nitrate and phosphates are not signs of impending doom in your reef, or an indication that you're a failure. Rather, they are a measure of water quality, and are also utilized by corals as nutrient sources. The key is to strike a balance between sufficient levels to keep your corals happy, and levels that encourage massive nuisance algae growth. There is a "sweet spot", and it's important to find it, and maintain it. Often, it's simply a matter of stocking your reef with fish, feeding them, and feeding your corals directly on a regular basis. Yes, water changes are still a must, but fixating on a specific number and bragging of your reef's "sterility" is sooo last century. Relax- watch your corals..Listen to what they're telling you..
"We came to take our husbandry theories back."
*Stock your tank as quickly and as densely as possible, because the wild rivers and streams are densely populated and you want to duplicate a wild environment as much, and as quickly, as possible. Besides, if you finish stocking your tank quickly, you'll be eligible for "Tank of the Month" by April!
Counterpoint: This is basic stuff, going back to our childhood 5 gallon "community tank" days, when we were reminded not to stock a tank too densely and too quickly, because the "filter couldn't adjust" to a rapidly increasing population fast enough. Yet, I see disasters almost weekly that trace their source to this issue! Well, things haven't really changed all that much. It's still not a great idea to cram dozens of fishes into your tank from the get go. Not only does the beneficial bacteria population have to catch up to an ever-increasing bioload, but the fishes themselves have to adjust to their new environment. You need to stock your aquarium in a steady, measured pace. What's the rush? Besides, wouldn't being named "Aquarium of The Year" be so much more satisfying when you actually "grew" your tank over time?
So, what are the big takeaways here (This is for the Twitter crowd, who, according to "marketing experts" that I know can't handle more information than can be expressed in like 140 characters or less)? :
*Don't stress your fishes and plants by messing with them constantly.
*Quarantine all new arrivals without exception!
*Correct problems slowly and carefully.
*Feed the @#$%^ out of your corals!
*Stock your tank gradually and carefully.
Now comes the fun part! I'm sure that you know dozens of other ways to tick off your aquariums, and how to correct them! Being an "open source" forum, it's time for you to add to the framework I gave you here. Share your wisdom, okay?
Never be afraid to voice your opinion, ask a question, or share your knowledge on aquarium keeping. And, above all: