How Does The Hosepipe Ban Affect My Pond?

There is a hosepipe ban due to come into effect on the 5th of August across the North West. We are already receiving a large number of enquiries about how we as pond keepers can save water. Any pond that holds livestock such as fish or amphibians is still permitted to use water if necessary but we must do our best to limit usage. We must look at ways that we can use water more efficiently as a running hosepipe will waste between 450 and 1000 litres per hour. That is enough to fill 30 to 60 goldfish bowls!

make sure your water quality stays perfect.

The first thing that we need to do is keep the existing pond water cleaner for longer. By reducing the levels of waste that your fish produce you will ensure that less water changes are needed. Use the best Quality fish food that your budget allows. Brands such as Vitalis, Tetra and Hikari are known for using much more digestible ingredients in their foods. This means that your fish will absorb more nutrients and less will pass through their digestive system and end up as waste.

Lower quality foods and budget brands often use a lot of “ash” (indigestible ingredients). This is because it bulks the food out and makes it seem as though you are getting more for your money.

How Much Should I Feed My Fish?

It is worth mentioning that nearly 70% of people overfeed their pond. Fish are cold blooded so their metabolism is determined by their surrounding temperature and not their food intake. A fish needs about 10% as much food as a similar sized mammal would do.

We humans have long intestines because vegetable matter takes time to digest. Fish have a very short gut so their food is only able to be digested in a very short time. With this in mind, you should only feed your fish once daily and then only as much food as they can eat in five minutes. Any that is left after this time should be scooped out and discarded. Once you are familiar with the quantity of food your fish need, you can spread it out over 2 -3 meals a day. This way, the fish will be able to utilise even more of the vitamins and minerals and less waste will be produced.

Keep Waste Levels Low

The end product of the waste cycle in your pond is Nitrate (NO3). Nitrate causes algae to grow and over time will impair your fishes ability to generate new cells. This leads to slow growing, sickly fish.

There are two ways to remove the Nitrates from a pond

  1. Water changes: This method is wasteful and inefficient. It simply masks the symptoms of excessive Nitrates rather than dealing with the problem.
  2. Encouraging natural processes such as plant growth. Faster growing pond plants such as Water Lilies, Iris’ and Oxygenating weed take in Nitrates to fuel growth. The plants use Nitrogen to produce chlorophyll and release Oxygen.

Lilies also play a vital role when trying to preserve your pond water for another reason. The beautiful leaves cover the surface of the pond and reduce evaporation. If you allow Lilies to cover one third of the pond, the reduction in light penetration is often enough to prevent the growth of green water algae. The pond temperature will be more consistent and there is less surface area for water to evaporate from.

Making Sure It Stays Clean

An efficient filter system is the cornerstone of a healthy pond. When buying a filter always bear in mind that the maximum filtration capacity stated is just that… A maximum. If a filter states that is is capable of maintaining a 1000 litre pond this means under ideal conditions. A filter of this size will clean a 1000 litre pond in full shade with a very low fish stocking level. As most ponds are moderately stocked and receive at least partial sunlight for a few hours a day this needs to be taken into account.

Ideally choose a filter that is capable of maintaining at least double the volume of your pond and this way foams will need to be cleaned even less frequently.

Pressure filters are fantastic because they are sealed and therefor they are far less likely to leak over time and no water can evaporate from them. The foams inside them are cleaned without having to be removed from the filter. This saves even more water as rinsing foams with a hose is wasteful and messy.

Oxygenate Your Pond

Nearly all life needs oxygen to survive. Much of the filtration process that occurs in ponds is carried out by beneficial bacteria. These bacteria use oxygen to remove pollutants from the water. The more oxygen you can supply the pond with, the more these microbes will thrive and maintain healthy water quality.

How to oxygenate your pond

  • Plants: As we have already mentioned, all aquatic plants will help to oxygenate the water.
  • Air Pumps: using an air pump in the pond breaks the surface film of water and as the bubbles rise, they drag water from the bottom of the pond to the surface. This helps to release Carbon Dioxide and replenish the Oxygen levels.
  • Fountains: Fountains supply Oxygen to the pond in much the same way as an air pump and can add an element of height to an otherwise flat water feature.

Reduce Evaporation.

This Summer has been the hottest on record for a long time. A combination of relentless heat and a lack of rainfall mean that one of the biggest concerns for pond keepers is evaporation.

One of the best ways to reduce evaporation in the pond is by providing surface cover. Lilies are a fantastic way of doing this with many other benefits that we have already discussed. For small to medium sized ponds, another option is to cover up to half of the pond with a waterproof membrane. There are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. Safety: Never cover a pond so that it is possible for somebody to accidentally fall or step on the membrane. Make sure that the cover is highly visible and secure. Ensure that children and wildlife can’t accidentally step onto it and become entangled.
  2. Whatever you decide to cover the pond with must be non toxic. Water will condense on the underside and return to the pond. Most treated wood contains chemicals that could be fatal to fish.
  3. The cover must be above the water and not touching it. If the cover is in contact with the water it will prevent CO2 from escaping the pond and stop Oxygen from entering. This combined with warmer temperatures and less rainfall can decimate a pond overnight.

Save More Water.

Waterfalls are one of the best methods of adding Oxygen to pond water but the high turbulence created is also responsible for a large amount of evaporation. When a Hosepipe ban is in place it is best to turn the flow of a waterfall down in an effort to produce a smoother cascade.

If possible, divert water back to the pond by bypassing the waterfall all together. This can be done by connecting a length of pond hose to run all of the way back to the edge of the pond from the filter or pump.

If you do choose to turn off or bypass the waterfall always add an air pump so that additional oxygenation is provided.

When Will The Hosepipe Ban End?

At the moment it is difficult to predict exactly how long water usage restrictions will be in place for. One thing that is certain though is that if we all do our best to save water supplies, things will be back to normal sooner.

By maintaining a healthy pond, we create an oasis for local wildlife large and small. Even a modest garden pond has a positive environmental impact far beyond that which we can see. Birds will drop in for a quick dip and at this time of year, many are still teaching their young how to survive.

By maintaining great water quality and recycling water efficiently, the positive effect on the environment reaches further than ever. Water reservoirs and clean water supplies all need energy to operate and if we all used less water on a day to day basis we could reduce Carbon emissions massively.

One person can make a difference, remember every single hour that a tap is running for, nearly a thousand litres of clean water goes down the drain. That is more than most households use in two whole days.

For more ways to save water in your home please visit United Utilities fantastic article by clicking on This Link.

If you have found this article useful, please share it with others and thank you for taking the time to help.

Wildlife Ponds

We have noticed a huge increase in interest in wildlife ponds and this is fantastic!

One thing that all animals need is water. This makes installing a wildlife pond in your garden the most important thing that you can do for the animals in your area. You would be amazed at the diversity that even the smallest pool will bring.

Our customers have reported a huge increase in native fauna due to the rising numbers of this type of pond.

What wildlife will I attract in the Fylde?

  • Birds such as goldfinches, goldcrests and even sparrowhawks and buzzards use our customers ponds for a drink
  • Larger wildlife ponds often attract ducks.
  • Mammals including hedgehogs, shrews and voles. Bats also feed on flying insects that live near water too.
  • Frogs, toads and newts. Many of our customers have reported great crested newts thriving in their garden!
  • Pollinating insects such as bees will stop for a well earned rest and a drink.
  • Vulnerable species such as the great diving beetle.
  • Sand lizards and common lizards both visit.

Did you know that the Fylde coast is one of only a few areas in the country that is home to sand lizards? These amazing animals are secretive but will bask near water in the morning.

Size doesnt matter…

Even the tiniest pool will benefit your garden in a thousand different ways and will become a sanctuary for all the animals that pass by.

Our range of pre-formed plastic pools and liners are more popular than ever and can be installed in an afternoon!

If you would like a larger pond to give you the option to keep fish, we have written another article to guide you through the simple process. 5 steps to building a flexible liner pond.

Adding movement to your water will help to keep it fresh and well oxygenated and will encourage amphibians to breed. You may want to add a pump to help circulation and a filter to maintain clear water. Our best selling and exclusive All In One Pond Filter, Pump and UV is perfect for wildlife ponds and makes maintenance hassle-free.

Plants for the wildlife pond

All marginal plants and oxgenators are suitable for wildlife ponds. Lilies love water of 12″ depth or more. We always stock a large variety of pond plants and are happy to advise you with regards to suitability.

All of our Pond Plants are grown in the UK in a way that actually benefits the ecosystem. we do not use pesticides and always have a selection dedicated to pollinating insects. Our Bees need all the help they can get!

 

Things to consider

A wildlife pond should always have at least one sloping edge so that animals can enter and exit the pond easily. If you have small children you may want to build a wall or fence around larger ponds. It goes without saying that children must always be supervised when playing near water.

Our own resident family of wild ducks have had five babies this year!

 

Other benefits of having a wildlife pond

We think that one of the greatest gifts that we can pass on to the younger generation is a respect of wildlife. Both kids and adults are always amazed at the diversity of life that can be found right outside the back door. Did you know that the Fylde coast is home to all three species of native newts? We have healthy populations of smooth, palmate, and great crested newts.

Who remembers catching tadpoles when they were younger? For some of us that fascination never went away and with it remained a love of nature that lasts for ever.

In a world where games can be played across the world and phones are smart so that we don’t need to be, even the smallest wildlife pond lets us relax. Forget about virtual reality and just enjoy reality. Nature is waiting so why not invite it in to your garden.

Wildlife Ponds PDF download

Introducing Your New Fish To The Aquarium

As Fishkeepers, we have a responsibility to provide the best possible care for our pets.

Moving home is a stressful event. It means a change in environment and unfamiliar surroundings. For fish, this change is even more of a shock. The chances are that the water in their new tank will have dozens of subtle differences from the previous one. These changes take time to adapt to and stress can make fish susceptible to illness.

Thankfully it is easy to reduce the stress of moving tank in just a few, easy steps!

 

Things to do before you add a new fish.

  1. The first thing to do is to check with your local fish store if the fish you have chosen is suitable. Also check if it has any unique requirements. For example: does it need live foods or is flake suitable?
  2. Always check what size the fish will grow to. It is all well and good deciding that you would like a cute baby red tailed catfish but can you house it as a 36″ adult? Aquatic stores are inundated with offers of large fish and seldom have room to accept them.
  3. Test your water. Ammonia and Nitrite (NO2) should both be zero ppm (parts per million). Nitrate (NO3) should be lower than 25 ppm ideally. Chlorine levels must be zero and your pH should closely match the fishes natural environment. For most community tanks a pH of 7 is ideal as this is neither acid or alkaline and so provides a balance for different species.
  4. Add decoration to your tank. It is important that new fish feel safe and have somewhere to hide. Adding new ornaments may also reduce territorial behaviours in fish that are already in the tank.
  5. If you already have fish in the tank, feed them before you set off to buy new inhabitants. Lets face it, who wants to quarrel on a full stomach? When you and your new pet return, the tank will most likely be in a peaceful state.

At the fish store

  • Always feel free to ask questions before you buy your fish. We want you to enjoy your new pets without worrying
  • Look closely at the tank the fish are kept in. There should be no uneaten food and any dead fish in the tank is not a good sign. How are the fish in the tank behaving? they should look bright and reactive not huddled in a corner looking stressed.
  • If you would like a particular fish from a tank, feel free to ask the assistant to catch it for you. So long as it isn’t a tetra from a shoal of a thousand, they should be happy to accommodate. Bare in mind that it is not always possible to sex fish reliably depending on species and size.
  • Ask what food the fish have been feeding on and the time they are used to being fed. This will help to maintain routine which will further reduce stress.
  • Purchase a stress reducing formula. These water additives are designed to relax fish and provide additional protection against illness.

Now that you have chosen your new pet, take it straight home. If you need to make any other stops, please do so before you go to the fish store. The less time your fish spends in the bag, the better.

 

What to do when you get home?

  • Turn off the lights in your aquarium. Fishes eyes take much longer to adjust to changing light levels than ours. Being removed from a dark bag only to be placed under a bright light is going to be a shock. Add the stress reducing formula.
  • Place the tied bag containing your fish so that it is floating on the surface of your aquarium water.
  • Allow the bag to float for fifteen to twenty minutes and the cut the knot off the bag and roll down to form a “collar” that will keep the bag afloat.

 

  • Take a cup of water from the aquarium and pour a little into the floating bag. Take care not to put too much in at once as this will cause the bag to sink.
  • Repeat this step every few minutes for the next quarter of an hour. This allows the water in the bag and your aquarium water to mix so that any changes to pH or other parameters happen gradually.
  • Tip the bag gently to allow your fish to swim out in their own time and explore their new surroundings.

  • Lastly, spend some time observing your new inhabitant. Keep an eye open for other fish bullying him or her. If this does occur, add a small amount of food as a distraction. and monitor.
  • Leave the lights off for a few hours to allow the new tank mates to adjust. Most fish are naturally more docile at night.

Relax and enjoy your new pet…

For the first few days, keep an extra close eye on the tank just to make sure everybody is getting along and getting a chance to feed. If you have followed the steps above, introducing a new fish shouldn’t be a stressful procedure for anyone.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail us at sales@atlasaquatics.co.uk.

Thank you on behalf of us and your new fish for taking the time to read this article.

Introducing Your New Fish To The Aquarium PDF Download

 

How to set up a fish tank for the first time

How to set up a fish tank for the first time! This is not as difficult as you might think if you follow our simple guide. It is a well known fact that aquariums are relaxing. If you have never set a fish tank up before it can seem a little daunting but it really is easy. In just a few simple steps, you can become a fish keeper!

Preparation

The first step is to choose a tank. Things to consider are…

  • What type of fish you would like to keep?
  • Where is the tank going to go?
  • What is your budget?

Choose the right type of aquarium for the fish you intend to keep. Larger tanks are easier to maintain and have more stable water chemistry. Small tanks can look gorgeous if you choose fish or shrimps that are suitable. Choose an area for the tank that does not receive direct sunlight or draughts. Ideally pick a spot with a level floor and that is out of the way of the main traffic in the house. Most aerosols such as air fresheners are poisonous to aquatic life so be sure to bear that in mind.

Check list

Based on a tropical or coldwater set up here is a list of things you’ll need.

  1. Aquarium
  2. Lights
  3. Filter
  4. Heater (for tropical tanks)
  5. Air pump (if you want bubbles)
  6. Substrate (gravel or sand)
  7. Decor
  8. Water conditioner
  9. Filter starter bacteria
  10. Water test kits

Wash everything

It is always a good idea to rinse the inside of a new aquarium as well as ornaments. This is to remove any residues from the manufacturing process.

Your gravel or sand will normally require washing before it is added to the aquarium. The exception being specialist substrates for planted aquaria as this contains certain nutrients to help plant growth. The best way to wash your gravel is to add small amounts (I use around 2kg) at a time to a clean bucket. Stir the substrate by hand as you fill the bucket with tap water. Once the bucket is around 2/3 full, turn the tap off and allow the substrate to settle for a few seconds. Carefully pour off the water and repeat as many times as necessary. You should keep doing this until the water is clear. I know how tempting it is to rush this stage but keep going until the water is clean. Add the gravel or sand to the bottom of the tank and smooth it with your hand.

Half fill the tank

Place a saucer on the gravel and gently pour water onto it from a bucket or jug. This is to avoid disturbing the gravel too much and stirring it all up. Use water only from the cold tap as home hot water pipes use a different flux and can be toxic to fish. you can add a little boiled water to the bucket to take the chill off.

Add filter, heater and decor

Once the tank is half full it is time to position your filter. Be sure to read all instructions carefully and remove any inner packaging. This tank from Aqua One has a trickle filter built into the top that is fixed in place. If your tank has a separate internal power filter, the best place to position it is one of the back corners of the tank near the surface so that the flow creates gentle ripples. Most modern internal filters have a movable flow nozzle so that you can choose the direction of water to flow. It is best to position this towards the corner of the tank diagonally opposite the filter. This will ensure the most efficient circulation of water and avoid “dead spots” where there is no flow. If you are using an external filter it is best to position the inlet and outlet pipes at opposite ends of the tank.

The heater should be fitted at the back of the tank. It is best to position the heater diagonally and fully underwater. This allows the heat to rise and circulate more effectively. Ideally the filter outlet will gently pass water over the heater. This is so that the tank has no warm or cool spots and all of the water is the same temperature.

If you have an air pump now is the time to position the air stone and pipe where you would like them to go.

Now is a good time to add decoration. Think about the type of habitat you are trying to create – some fish species require specific decor such as caves or at least hiding places to feel secure. Make sure that any rocks or heavy ornaments are stable so that they can’t fall.

  • Do not plug the filter or heater in yet, this is the last thing to do.

Fill the tank

Now you may add the remaining water to the tank. Most tanks have a marker on the inside to show the maximum and minimum water levels. Add the dechlorinator (also known as tap water conditioner) using the manufacturers instructions for your volume of aquarium.

Once the tank is full you may plug in the filter and heater. Even though they are built to rigorous safety standards it is a good idea to keep your hands out of the tank whenever they are switched on. They should also be switched off before performing any maintenance.

When plugging in the filter and heater, always leave a “drip loop”. This means that the wires should droop down lower than the plug socket so that if any water gets onto the wire, it drips off. This way water cannot get into the plug and create a hazard.

Now for the hardest part…

Now is the step that fish keepers dread!

Waiting…

Your new aquarium is a life support system. If you have a tropical tank, it takes a little time for the heater to bring water to the correct temperature. The water isn’t yet chemically stable and this takes a while. You should, at this time, add live filter bacteria so that the filter begins to mature and will be ready for adding livestock.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no benefit to leaving the tank for a month without adding fish. Most tanks will be ready to add the first few fish after three days to one week.

You should begin testing the pH of the water as well as Ammonia and Nitrite. For most commonly kept fish a pH of 7-7.5 is ideal but this does vary from species to species so be sure to check. The Ammonia and Nitrite must be 0 ppm (parts per million).

The fun begins!

Once your water is at the correct temperature and the conditions are testing correctly you can think about adding some fish!

Patience is always key in this hobby so rather than fill your tank with fish straight away, build your stock gradually. Choose the types of fish you would like to keep together and check compatibility. Add a few hardy fish to the tank and build your stocking levels weekly.

It is best to test your water daily after the first fish have been added. This is because organic waste is now being produced and conditions can change quickly. Feed a suitable food once a day and only as much as the fish can consume in a minute or two. Once your tank is mature and stable, you can test your water weekly.

99% of problems can be avoided by simply taking your time and not overfeeding the fish. Fish are cold blooded so they don’t need as much food as you think.

And… Relax

As fish keepers, we know how much joy this hobby can bring to everybody. Fish like stability and consistency and this means that there is very little to do now other than sit back and enjoy your aquarium.

If you have any other questions or need any help or support, we’re here to help. Feel free to e-mail us at  sales@atlasaquatics.co.uk

Download this guide as a PDF here How to set up a fish tank for the first time

Outdoor Pond

Pond pumps, filtration and lighting made easy

Everybody loves the sound of moving water in their garden but with so many pumps and filters to choose from, where do you start? It can seem hard when you are faced with such a huge selection but it can be easy to choose when you understand what each one does. Pumps move water. Filters clarifiy water that is supplied to them by a filter pump. UV filters (these should properly be named UV clarifiers) help to prevent water turning green.

Pond pumps

The pump is the beating heart of your water feature. There are two main types of pond pump. The first is a fountain pump and these are made to pump already clean water through a decorative fountain attachment. The motor itself is not designed to move dirty water or sediment so the inlets to the pump are relatively small. Some may also have a small sponge inside. Fountain pumps are cheaper than filter/ waterfall pumps because they are built to do less strenuous work. If a fountain pump is used to power a filter, it will tire quickly and eventually break.

 

Fountain pumps are great for

  • Running a fountain in a clean pond
  • powering small pond side ornaments
  • oxgenating small ponds by creating surface movement

The second type is a filter pump or waterfall pump. These are usually larger than fountain pumps and are designed to push water through a pipe to either a filter or a watercourse. They have more, larger inlet holes than those found on fountain pumps because their job is to accept dirty water and send it to the filter to be cleaned. Most filter pumps can pass through solids of up to 8mm without struggling. They have strong internal parts and can handle the pressure of pumping water from the pond to a filter or waterfall above the ground. Some can pump up to a height of many meters. They are more expensive than a fountain pump with a similar flow rate because they are designed to do a different job and cope with more stress.

Filter / waterfall pumps are great for

  • Sending dirty water to a filter to be cleaned
  • Pumping uphill to supply water to a waterfall
  • Very large fountain displays
  • Circulating large volumes of water

Flow rates

The next step is to work out what rate of water flow you will require. If you are using the pump to run a filter then the minimum flow rate should be twice your pond’s volume per hour. For example, if your pond is 3000 litres then you will need a minimum flow of 6000 litres per hour (LPH). A slightly over sized filter will work just fine and need cleaning out less often.

If you want to incorporate a waterfall into your pond then you will need a minimum of 100 litres per hour for every 1cm width of the waterfall. For example a waterfall ending with a 30cm wide shelf will need to be supplied by a pump with a minimum flow rate of 3000 litres per hour.

Always remember that the higher above ground you pump, the more the flow will reduce. The rate this happens varies between pumps so check what flow rate they will give at varying heights. Measure from the water level of the pond to the highest part of your waterfall and check the flow rate at this height rather than the maximum your pump is capable of.

 

Pond filters

Pond filters can be divided into two main categories. The first are box (gravity fed) filters. These filters must be situated above the ground as they are open topped boxes with a lid. The water enters the filter through a pipe connection and then flows via gravity through the filter media and back out of a hole near the bottom of the box. If the filter foams become blocked over time, the box may overflow. Gravity fed box filters are often relatively inexpensive as their construction is simple.

Box filters are popular for small ponds with few fish.

Box filters are…

  • not sealed units so can’t be dug into the ground
  • relatively cheap due to simpler design
  • maintenance heavy compared to pressure filters
  • great for small ponds with low stocking levels

 

The second type of filter is called a pressure filter. These get their name because they are sealed and can be positioned lower than ground level. Pressure filters are great for all kinds of pond and they can be partially buried and disguised more easily. They have fittings for three pipes. The first is an inlet for water coming from the pump. The second is the outlet where water is returned from the filter to the pond or waterfall. The third fitting is for waste water when cleaning the filter foams.

Most pressure filters have a ring of sponges inside which can be cleaned by turning a valve to divert water to the outlet and then pulling a handle to squeeze the foams out. The benefit to this system is that is does not require disassembling the filter and removing the foams. All the cleaning is done using pressure from your pump without even getting your hands wet!

 

Pressure filters are…

  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Able to be dug into the ground and disguised
  • Built to be positioned as far from the pond as you need (e.g in a garage or shed)
  • Great for ponds of all sizes
  • The most popular pond filter for all of the above reasons

Filters are recommended for a certain pond size. You can easily work out your pond volume using the guide in the article 5 steps to building a flexible liner pond.

UV or not UV?

That is the question! A UV (ultraviolet clarifier) is a special type of light that many filters include or may be added separately. They use very little power and are designed to control green water algae. They do this by passing water in close proximity to a light of a particular wavelength. This causes single celled algae in the water to clump together to be removed by the filter. It is more cost effective to buy a filter with a built in UV than to add one on separately. When you buy the correctly sized pump, filter and UV for your pond and stocking levels, you are guaranteed to have clear water all year round.

 

Pond lights

Pond lights can be positioned underwater inside the pond or around the edge. They use LEDs or halogen bulbs to give your pond a completely different look after dark. Pond lights can be purchased singly or in sets of three or more. They use a transformer to provide mains electrical power. The transformer must usually be positioned out of the water but each light unit has a considerable length of cable so that you are not limited with design.

Some pond lights come with different coloured lenses so that you match your pond with other colour schemes in the garden. Most lights are best fitted towards the surface of the pond pointing slightly downwards to avoid startling the fish. You may wish to illuminate the whole pond but always leave at least one third in partial darkness. This is so that your fish can hide if they need to and will help keep them stress free and safe from predators.

Other things to consider

Now that you know what options are available and can easily decide which system is best for you. You may want to plan how to disguise the pump and filter if you want a natural looking pond. This can easily be done with a little careful planning and attention to detail. Pond pumps come with 10 metres of electrical cable as standard but UV clarifiers and lights may come with less so always check the individual product descriptions before you buy and always consult a qualified electrician before starting to build your pond.

Once you have finished, Its time to relax and enjoy your beautiful new pond. It will bring new life to your garden from pollinating insects to birds and mammals. A well designed and maintained pond is a focal point like no other and will bring joy to everyone that encounters it.

Download this guide as a PDF here Pond pumps filtration and lighting made easy

Aquarium Moss

How to get rid of aquarium algae

Nearly every fish keeper will suffer from problem algae at some point. It is important to remember that algae is just a symptom of an underlying problem. Algae growth can be useful for helping to understand more about the way your tank works.

Why does my tank have algae?

Algae is a very primitive type of plant and like all plants it needs three things to survive. Light, water and nutrients. Obviously we cant take away the water so our focus should be on the lights and nutrients in the tank.

  • Does the aquarium receive direct sunlight? This is one of the most common causes of algae growth on glass and ornaments.
  • If you use fluorescent lights, when were they last changed? If they are more than a year old they may be giving out the wrong type of light.
  • Over feeding is often the cause of algae blooms. Too much food will raise your phosphates which will cause algae to grow.
  • Incorrect or infrequent water changes allow waste to build up not to mention feed nuisance algae.

How do I get rid of it?

The first thing to do is test your water using a reliable test kit like the NT Labs Aquarium Lab Multi Test Kit. This will show you if the waste levels in your tank are contributing to the algae growth. Too much Nitrate or Phosphate in a tank will act as fertiliser for algae.

Over feeding is more common than you think

  • Almost everybody overfeeds their tank. Fish are cold blooded so they don’t need as much food as you might think. Choose a high quality fish food and then feed only once or twice per day, as much as your fish will eat in one or two minutes. If you are using a flake food, crunch it between your fingers slightly so that your fish can easily eat it.
  • Remove uneaten food after feeding the fish. If left, it will break down in to waste that will feed algae.
  • Over feeding is not always the problem. It could be that your aquarium maintenance routine needs changing. Aim to change 15 – 20% of your water every week. Changing more water will have negative effects as you risk upsetting the balance of your tank and killing off beneficial bacteria. You should use an aquarium gravel cleaner because nearly all of the waste in your tank is trapped in the substrate.

Water changes must be done correctly

  • Changing water from the top of the tank will not remove waste as the water is relatively clean.
  • Once you know that your water is low in nutrients it is time to look at the lighting. If your tank receives direct sunlight, this will most likely cause problems. Either try moving your tank to a more shaded part of the room or keep curtains and blinds closed for longer. If light is hitting the sides or back of the tank, consider adding an aquarium background to block some of it out.
  • The last thing to check is often overlooked. How old are your aquarium lights? Fluorescent bulbs will give out the wrong type of light once they are about a year old. If your tank has this type of light, it may be telling you that it is time to change the bulbs. Good quality LED lights like the Zetlight do not tend to suffer from this problem and have a low running cost.

Keeping algae at bay.

A small amount of algae in a mature tank is natural as it is a sign that your filter is working well and converting ammonia and nitrite into relatively harmless nitrate. It is unsightly though and best removed.

  • Test your tap water regularly as many areas of the country have quite high nitrates and phosphates. If this is the case where you live, you may have to add products to your tank regularly to help combat it. Phosphate removers and Tetra Nitrate minus are good examples. You can use Reverse Osmosis water instead of tap water as it contains no organic nutrients what so ever.
  • Make sure that you only use the best quality fish food. Cheap fish foods often have higher amounts of indigestible ingredients and these will end up in your water.

Get help from a clean up crew

  • Consider adding algae eating fish or snails to your aquarium. Fish such as Siamese Algae eaters and various types of plecostomus will graze on most types of algae. Whichever species you choose you should always check what size they will grow to as some can get huge! Nerite snails are a more recent addition to our hobby and have made themselves a great name as algae munchers. These small (up to 1″ shell) snails can be added to your tank at a stocking level of one per 15 litres and will usually annihilate green algae. They are so popular because unlike many snails, they won’t graze on live plants and they are difficult to breed so you wont end up with a plague of them.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic. Whatever the reason behind an algae bloom, it is almost always a relatively easy problem to fix. Once you understand why algae grows you can keep it away and enjoy your tank for much longer.

Download this guide as a PDF here How to get rid of aquarium algae

Flexible lined pond

5 steps to fitting a flexible pond liner

Every year thousands of people decide to add a water feature to their garden. Aside from creating a beautiful focal point, the sound of gently running water is always a beautiful thing. Even the smallest garden pond will provide refuge and drinking water to a huge variety of wildlife, from birds to amphibians and a whole host of other native fauna.

Although the prospect of building a pond using flexible sheet liner can seem daunting, it’s just five simple steps.

1. Location location location!

The first thing to decide is where the pond is going to go. An ideal location would be somewhere that receives shade for at least a few hours a day. If the area you have chosen will be in full sunlight all day, algae will grow more readily and you will need to account for this by over-sizing your pond filter. If the pond will be situated under the shade of a tree, falling leaves will need to be accounted for and you will need a cover net to help to keep them off the pond as well as a good surface skimming net and a pond pump that can cope with larger solids such as the excellent laguna max-flo range.

Other things to consider are…

  • Distance from the nearest electrical point as all pond pumps come with 10m (33 feet) of electrical cable but many filters come with less (please see individual product descriptions).
  • Will your hose pipe reach the area you have chosen to fill the pond and top up evaporation in the summer? Is your desired location somewhere that makes it possible to drain water from the pond when maintenance is being performed?
  • Do you use chemicals or fertilisers on your garden? If you do and your pond is in an area where these could be washed in when it rains, it will be impossible to create a healthy, stable environment for aquatic life.

Once you have found the perfect location for a garden pond, its time to have some fun!

2. Design, depth and digging

Now it’s time to decide on the shape of your pond. Would you prefer a formal or a more natural shape? What type of fish would you like to keep? Is encouraging wildlife to the pond your priority? The beauty with using a flexible liner is that your imagination is the limit. Flexible liners can fit any size or shape of pond. Just bear in mind that sharp angles will need to have folded edges and you will need a pond liner adhesive to stick these down so that fish dont get trapped under them. A shelf around the inside of the pond at a depth or 8 to 10 inches will enable you to plant a variety of marginal plants to provide colour to your garden and cover for your fish.

Considerations

Always check the likely locations of utility supply pipes before digging. legally, these must be no less than 60cm below ground level but many great pond builds have been halted in their tracks because this has not been the case. Safety is the most important factor when building a pond so if you aren’t 100 % certain about the location of pipes and wires, ask a professional to check.
If your pond is for wildlife, it is best to design it with at least one gently sloping edge. This is so that birds and animals can easily get in and out. A deeper area of at least 18 inches should be incorporated to allow plants like water lilies to grow and provide cover.

For Koi ponds you should aim to provide an area of at least 36 inches depth to allow the fish to swim naturally and develop their correct body shape. All other pond fish will benefit from this depth but it is less essential.

Once these considerations have been taken into account, mark out the area of the pond with string or a hosepipe and take a final few minutes to decide if the shape and location are right.

3. Choosing and fitting your new liner

There are several types of flexible pond liner and each has its own benefit. PVC liner is the cheapest and suitable for all ponds but is thinner than other types and less tear resistant than E.P.D.M or Butyl. It is still the liner of choice for many small to medium garden ponds.

Butyl rubber has been the favorite of professionals and hobbyists for years, due to its high tensile strength, tear resistance and flexibility. It is available in different thicknesses, is very hard wearing and can stretch better than PVC to acommodate edges.

E.P.D.M also know as Epalyn rubber, shares some properties with Butyl rubber. It has an even higher tear resistance, flexablity and a greater ability to stretch than Butyl. E.P.D.M liner costs more than PVC but much less than Butyl.

How to work out what size liner you need

Measure the longest, widest, and deepest areas to be covered.

LENGTH, PLUS 2 X DEPTH, = SIDE 1
WIDTH, PLUS 2 X DEPTH = SIDE 2
ADD A MINIMUM OR 12 INCHES (30CM) TO YOUR FINAL MEASUREMENTS TO ALLOW AN OVERLAP FOR EDGING.
So for a pond measuring 200cm long x 100cm wide x 60cm deep
200cm plus 60cm plus 60cm = 320cm
100cm plus 60cm plus 60cm =220cm
So when we add 30cm to each to allow for our overlap, the minimum liner size you require is 350cm x 250cm

Don’t forget to fit a quality underlay to protect your new liner for the duration of its life. Even if the ground seems smooth there will likely be small particles capable of puncturing it. All of the liners that we offer, come with a lifetime guarantee if they are installed properly and with the correct underlay.

4. Filling your pond and adding edging

Now is the time to fill your pond using a hose pipe and add a suitable pond dechlorinator to ensure that the water is safe for fish. As the pond is filling, gently pull the edges upwards and out to minimise any creases and folds. Once the pond is full, weigh down the edges and allow it to settle overnight. The next day you may trim any excess liner (leaving a 30cm overlap) using a sharp knife.

You can use a variety of paving slabs held down with mortar to edge your pond, be sure to check that they are inert first so that they won’t alter your ponds water chemistry. If you are unsure, add a few drops of white vinegar to a piece of the rock. If you notice any bubbles or fizzing, the rock is reacting to the acidity of the vinegar and should not be used. Rocks with green, blue or red streaks running through them most likely contain metals and should be avoided.

5. Adding a pump, filter and lights

When choosing your pump and filter, it is vital to know the approximate volume of your new pond. As most ponds aren’t exactly square or rectangular you should use average measurements. Using the following formula, take the average measurements of your pond in metres to work out its volume in litres.
LENGTH X WIDTH X DEPTH X 1000 = POND VOLUME IN LITRES
To convert this to gallons divide your answer by 4.5
So for a pond measuring 2m long x 1m wide x 0.6m deep
2 X 1 X 0.6 X 1000 = 120 litres
120 ÷ 4.5 = 26.7 gallons

Pumps

Pond pumps fall into two main categories:

  • Fountain pumps are designed for pumping already clean water through a fountain head attachment with little or no back pressure.
  • Filter pumps can pump water with particles up to 8mm to an external filter and can also be used for pumping water to a waterfall. These are both jobs that require stronger internal parts than standard fountain pumps have.

Filters

Filtration can either be gravity fed (the filter is outside of the pond and usually sat at least partially above ground) or Pressurised (The filter is outside the pond but below ground level). Gravity fed filters can vary from basic boxes which contain layers of filter media to self cleaning machines such as the OASE Proficlear Premium Compact.

Lighting can make even the most humble of ponds take on a magical hue at night and will allow you to benefit from your new ponds beauty 24 hours a day.

We will talk in more detail about these different options in our next article “Pond pumps, filtration and lighting made easy.”

For now, remember to enjoy designing and building your beautiful new garden pond and it will bring years of happiness and relaxation to the ones you love!

Download this guide as a PDF here 5 Steps to building a flexible liner pond

Aquarium Substrate

Choosing A Substrate For Your Aquarium

Choosing the correct substrate is one of the most important decisions you will make when setting up your aquarium. What type of tank would you like, for example, fresh water or marine? Are you only going to use artificial plants or would you prefer a natural substrate that enables you to grow live plants? Would you like your fish to breed?

Your substrate provides a home to the beneficial bacteria that keep your tank healthy and stable. It is important to make a well informed choice so that your tank is well balanced. Then you can spend less time maintaining and more time enjoying your hobby.

For the tropical or cold water fish tank

Smooth, natural gravel is one of the most popular substrates for these tanks. It is familiar to most fish and allows them to exhibit more natural behaviour and colours. Larger grades (6 to 10mm) are great for goldfish as they naturally feed from the bottom of the tank and smaller substrates risk being swallowed. Larger gravel also allows water to flow through it more easily and this provides oxygen to beneficial bacteria. Fine gravel or sand (1 to 4mm) is commonly used in tropical tanks or those with smaller fish where ingestion won’t be an issue. Plants can root better into fine gravel too and any waste or leftover food tends to be more visible and therefore easier to remove. Many aquarists use either a medium gravel (4 to 6mm) or a mixture of grades to share some of the benefits and create a more diverse aquascape.

Coloured gravel and sand

Gravel is available in a variety of colours. This is great if you have a theme for your aquarium or if you are using colours to compliment other furniture in the room. All of what has been said about the different sizes of substrate applies just the same. It is worth noting that Many people keep tropical fish because of their beautiful colours. Most fish have evolved these colours as a way of communicating with each other, either readiness to breed, social status, or to confuse predators. Bright substrates can confuse fish and as a result, many will mute their colour or pattern and appear relatively dull when very bright gravel is used.

If you are using internal or external power filters, you should have a gravel depth of around 1 to 1 and a half inches. If you are using an under gravel filter system, you will need approximately 3 inches of gravel.

For the planted tank

By far most aquarium plants acquire nutrients through their roots so it is best to have two different layers of substrate. The bottom layer should consist of a special planting substrate capable of holding on to nutrients. These should be porous to allow plants to anchor themselves down. This layer needs to be 1 to 2 inches thick for most plants to thrive. The top layer should be medium or fine standard aquarium gravel of 1 to 2 inch depth. This is because many planting substrates are quite sharp and could cause damage to bottom feeding fish such as corydoras catfish. Having the top layer of gravel prevents the nutrients in the lower layer from simply washing away and slows down the passage of water around the plants roots, enabling them to root firmly.

For the marine aquarium

When choosing the substrate for your marine aquarium it is important to remember that salt water fish and invertebrates require a high pH of around 7.8 to 8.4. This is the reason that the majority of salt water tanks use calcium carbonate based substrates. As the pH of your water naturally drops over time, these substrates will act as a natural buffer by releasing calcium into the water.

It is important to have an idea of the species you would like to stock. Many marine fish either pick up mouthfuls and sieve it through their gills or burrow into it. These species require a fine sand to do this. Larger predatory fish often swim mid water and so you can use a larger gravel or crushed shells . This can create a dramatic effect on the bottom of the tank. The species you decide to keep should determine what size gravel or sand you use.

If you want to keep a tank of mixed fish and invertebrates, you may want to have areas of the tank with different types of substrates. This can be harder to maintain but it is very rewarding to see many different creatures in their chosen element. It is important to research any animal before you buy and ensure you can provide it with everything it needs.

Other things to consider

Gravel is heavy! For every square foot at 1 inch deep you will require 4 to 5 kgs of substrate. Deeper substrate than normal is advised if you use rocks or heavy decorations in your tank. They will need to be placed securely so that they don’t move and harm your fish or damage your tank.

Always read the instructions when you purchase substrate. Some require washing before they are added and others, such as many planting substrates, do not. Doing so would wash away vital minerals. When washing your substrate it is much easier to do small amounts rather than all at once. The best way to do this is by pouring a few kgs into a bucket, adding tap water. Stir up the substrate before allowing it to settle for a few seconds and then pouring off the water. Repeat this as many times as is necessary until the water runs clear.

If you have a plastic or acrylic aquarium, you need to take extra care when adding sand or gravel as these tanks will scratch more easily than glass.

After adding substrate to an empty aquarium, place a saucer on top of the substrate. Then fill the aquarium by pouring water onto the saucer. This will ensure minimal disturbance and when combined with well washed gravel, will reduce the chance of cloudy water.

Most of all, have fun! Choosing the correct substrate will have long lasting effects in your aquarium. It will make maintenance easier and your pets happier. As long as your choice is well informed, the rewards are long lasting.

Download this guide as a PDF here Choosing a substrate for your aquarium

Tropical Freshwater Aquarium

How to set up a tropical planted aquarium

New to fishkeeping? This planted aquarium is easy to set up, and is suitable for beginners who would like to grow live plants in their community tank.

For our set-up, the aquarium we chose was a Juwel Trigon 190 with dark wood cabinet. The tank is a bow front corner aquarium which, due to its shape, should be placed in the corner of the room.

We chose the Juwel tank as it can accommodate a number of different fish types and it comes with a built-in internal filter and heater. The built-in filter makes equipment choice less difficult and this particular filter (minus the carbon pad) we found to be good for planted aquaria.

The heater thermostat, which keeps the water at the right temperature for the fish, sits inside the filter and is fitted in a place where it will receive a good flow of water. The heater is set to 25°C/77°F.

We built the cabinet ourselves as it came flat packed, so make sure that you assemble it correctly as the tank will be heavy once filled. Our tank can be viewed from both sofas in the room it’s in and is in the opposite corner to the television, so the two won’t clash. The corner is particularly suitable as there aren’t any radiators nearby which might cause the temperature of the tank to fluctuate. The French windows are opposite the tank but it is still the most suitable corner, and if sunlight does hit the tank during daylight hours, we can simply pull one of the curtains across.

Set-up type

The brief was to set up a tropical community tank with plants. A community aquarium is the most popular type of set-up – it houses a mix of fish that are all of a peaceful nature and a similar size, and which will all live happily alongside one another.

We wanted to add some real plants which make the aquarium look much more natural and also make the fish feel more ‘at home’. You can just add basic gravel, but if you want your plants to grow really well, rather than just survive, you really need to add a few extras to the basic set up. We started at the bottom:

One useful tool for growing plants is the undergravel heating cable. This low wattage cable (usually below 50W depending on size,) emits warmth which causes convection currents to move water very slowly through the gravel and with it, nutrients that can then be taken up by the plant roots. Heating cables don’t come with thermostats as they are generally not powerful enough to overheat the tank.

Not everyone uses heating cables but most successful planted aquariums do, and to fit one and then turn it off in the future is far less trouble than to not fit one and have to strip the tank in order to put one in.

Substrate is the aquatic world’s term for the gravel or sand that goes on the bottom of the tank. In this case plant growth was a factor and so we needed something to feed the plants, and something to anchor the plants. The fertiliser came in the form of Tetra Complete Substrate, which contains nutrients to aid plant growth. The ‘anchor’ was a 10cm/4” layer of Unipac Senegal grit. You need a deep layer so that the plants can send the roots down, and the grain size should be quite small to aid anchoring and to allow the roots to push their way through it.

Most substrates need to be rinsed in tap water to remove any dust which would cloud the tank water once filled.

Note that plant fertiliser substrates like the Tetra Complete Substrate should not be washed as all the nutrients and particles would be washed away – so only wash the sand or gravel that goes on top of the plant substrate.

Aquascaping

Aquascaping is the term used to describe underwater landscaping, and it is a chance to create your own unique underwater scene.

Aquascapes should not only look good but should be practical for maintenance and sympathetic to the needs of the fish. Most tropical fish like to be able to hide if they feel threatened, so a combination of rocks, wood and plants will provide shelter. The lava rock we used has been carved to create holes and has good architectural qualities. It is inert, meaning that it won’t leach anything into the water that could poison fish or alter water quality.

The wood used is also for aquatic use but it will still stain the water quite brown. Ordinarily the carbon in the filter would help to clear the water of tannins but it was removed to prevent it sucking up the plant food.

Only buy wood from aquatic shops as it will sink and is safe for use with fish. The rock goes in first, then the wood, then the plants.

Plants

Plants are a major design feature of this aquarium so we used species we knew would grow quickly and were easy to keep. Fast growing plant species suck up the nitrates and phosphates that cause algal growth, and the tall species provide a bit of shade beneath them as they stretch across the water surface. We obtained ours from a mail order plant company and ordered a selection for a 90cm/36” aquarium.

We didn’t use all the plants that were sent as we didn’t want it to be too heavily planted, and instead just picked those that suited our décor and caught our eye.

Finishing touches

Carbon dioxide (CO2) was used to aid plant growth along with liquid fertiliser to be added on a weekly basis and reflectors to increase the amount of light shining into the tank. It is a good idea to plug your lights into a timer so that there is a fixed amount of light per day. This offers a natural day/night cycle for the fish and plants and prevents the light from being left on too long – causing nuisance algae.

Tapwater was used for the set-up, in the hope that initial planting would remove the nitrate and phosphate. Three weeks on and the plant choice was proving successful as no algae had grown and water tests revealed that the tank was ready for its first fish.

Hardy fish were added initially – some Platies and Golden barbs – and again the water was tested following their introduction.

Download this guide as a PDF here How to set up a tropical planted aquarium