Tell Us Your Best Aquarium Tip!

by Melissa R. on February 17, 2010

What's your best aquarium tip?

Want to WIN a $100.00 Gift Certificate? Comment on this post!

Helping aquarium hobbyists learn more about how to care for their aquarium and how to expand their knowledge has always been one of the most important things we do here at Foster and Smith. We write countless articles, and are always striving to help everybody from beginner to advanced aquarist.

But now it’s your turn! A few weeks ago we asked our Facebook Fans (Not a fan? Check out our Facebook page here) what was the one item they couldn’t live without for their aquarium – not including water! We got such a wonderful response, we wanted to see if there was more advice out there from hobbyists like yourself.

All you need to do is comment on this blog post with your
best piece of advice – and the best part is:

you’ll be entered to WIN
A $100.00 gift certificate!

That’s right – just by sharing your advice with us and others who read the blog, you’ll have the chance to win! (Sorry, this giveaway is closed.)

To get you started, here are few samples from the experts around here:

From Kevin Kohen: When performing a water change, unplug your heater. During the exchange it’s not uncommon for the heater to be partially out of the water and the ambient air temperature can cause the heater to turn on. When the aquarium is filled back up, the heater can explode. Don’t forget to plug it back in when finished.

From Monica S.: Place your aquarium in an appropriate area. One where you will get to enjoy it the most. Do NOT place it in high traffic areas, near windows/doors that may give off a draft, or in front of a window (which may cause excess algae growth).

From Kelvin F.: A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet/power strip is the best investment you can make to protect expensive electrical aquarium equipment.

Also: Plan ahead. Avoid the ” Up against the wall” approach to aquarium furniture set up. Situate your stand etc so there’s enough room behind your aquarium for easy maintenance or upgrades.

Details: For a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to or, leave a comment in this post sharing your best tip for aquarium care. What’s that one item you can’t do without, or that little bit of advice that saved the day? To be eligible, post your comment by noon CST on 02/24/09. We will pick one lucky winner.*

*No purchase is necessary to participate in this giveaway. You should be a legal resident of the United States and 18 years or older. Void where prohibited. For use on or website only. To see who won, go to Sponsor: Foster & Smith, Inc., P.O. Box 100, Rhinelander, WI 54501-0100.

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About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

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Aquariums in Classrooms: Developing an Appreciation for Fish
December 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Reichardt February 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

My advice is: GFCI, RO/DI and timers. As others have mentioned placement is key. Somewhere you can get to it and enjoy it but the fish will not be tormented by constant movement. I have almost 360 degree access to mine. Never rush anything. Never half a$* anything. Try to save cash by custom fabricating anything that you can. Change your bulbs and/or controller probes every year. If you want a reef tank..water movement is CRITICAL. I call protein skimmers CRITICAL as well. A good cheap skimmer is about $300.00…yeah it’s expensive to us working slaves but spend it. Trust me. In closing I’ll say this. Research what you want to keep and build accordingly. Never just decide to throw a tank together and load it with creatures. Bettas and goldfish this may work for…but betta’s and GF’s get kinda boring.

David Hanson February 24, 2010 at 9:34 am

If you are interested in getting started with this hobby, start small. If you have no experience in the aquarium hobby, please don’t go out and buy a 120 gallon reef tank. Start with a small (less than 45 gallon) freshwater tank to “get your feet wet” and then after gaining some experience and insight, upgrade. I’ve been in this hobby for about 25 years and am still learning. One of the main things I have learned is to have patience and don’t rush things.

Jennifer February 24, 2010 at 9:34 am

Keep up with water quality. Do regular water changes and test often.

Jonny February 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

Getting timer(s) for your lights is an inexpensive way to control your photoperiod!

john r. February 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

My tip? “Remember to have fun”.

Don’t get stressed out about every little thing. If you have a sincere interest in this hobby and are doing the best you can, then that’s all you can do. Enjoy your tank and everything in it. That’s what it’s for.

Scott February 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

Patience! Never rush anything

Charlie February 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

Dilution is the solution to the pollution!

Mark Poletti February 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

I try to respond to the tank and never react. There are many small moments when things are not going your way. It is in these moments to take a deep breath and think things through before just reacting and doing what first comes to mind. Somtimes, it is these primary actions that can cause even more troubles than showing a little patience and thinking things through.

John Kirby February 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

Children are always an essential element to aquarium enjoyment. Betas are great fish for children. Despite contrary belief, Betas require at least 5 gallon tanks. Filters are also a good investment to keep betas happy. Heaters are not essential if room temperature is consistently around 70 degrees, but water in the mid 70s will improve the color and livelihood of your beta. Cooler water will cause the Beta to be more sedentary. Remember also, females can be kept more than one per tank, but never males.

Joshua Maurice Williams February 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

RODI water will INSTANTLY open your eyes to a new world of aquarium cleanliness! A crystal clear tank with no nuisance algae will make observing your aquarium better than ever before. I also am a huge proponent of the Aquacontroller jr. Timers for lights as well as probes for temp and pH will allow you to rest easy, the iphone app isn’t too shabby either.

Joshua Maurice Williams February 24, 2010 at 10:22 am

RODI will change the way you observe your aquarium. Crystal clear water and no nuisance algae will bring your satisfaction in this hobby to new heights.

Justin Smith February 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

Patience when starting out is essential, dont go buy your aquarium and fish on the same day, although nobody likes seeing an empty aquarium, you will have a much more positive experience in fish keeping if you start our slow and allow your new aquarium to cycle first, many rush into things and have a negative experience and give up, had they started out slow, they likely would have had a positive experience and not given up.

Steve S February 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

I’ve loved live rock tanks for years now. If you check out your tank at night, you’ll probably see a number of creatures you won’t see during the day… and a number you didn’t even know were in your tank.

I’ve had a few tanks ranging from 10-50 gallons and always start with clown fish. Clarkii’s are a good, hardy fish to start a tank with. Clarks are passive and do fine with or without anemones. If you can, get a mated pair and they’ll be much happier.

One other tip somewhat related to clown fish:
Keep anemones away from low-hanging filter intakes. Learned that one the hard way 🙁

tiffany February 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

dont use additives as a quick fix! get to the root of the problem, dont mask it!

Curt minerd February 24, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hiding credit card statements Is a great way to slowly add livestock and have a happy marriage. Happy reefing!

Jason Wong February 24, 2010 at 11:29 am

For reef tanks, I’ve had much better success with maintaining my dkh at 10-11 versus the often recommended 8. One reason is that some test kits tend to over report alkalinity, so the 8 that you’re getting in your test is really more like 7. Better to shoot higher and give yourself a little more leeway for the alk to drop.

Tonya Gilmore February 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

Have fun and enjoy your hobby. Include children if and when possible to teach them to respect the tank. Make sure not to overcrowd your tank with fish and plants.

David Montgomery February 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

Stick to a regular maintenance schedule – take the few extra minutes to complete it each week and your livestock will thank you for it!

Melissa R. February 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thanks everyone for the GREAT advise! We’ll be announcing the winner soon. Good luck to you all!

Melissa R. February 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm

We have a WINNER! Congratulations Vicki Raines! Please email me your full name, address & phone number so we can get your gift certificate to you.

Thanks so much to everybody for contributing. I learned a lot from all these comments. It’s a fantastic resource for beginners to look at!

Mark February 24, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Don’t be afraid to drop a bit of money on equipment rather than trying to get by on a bunch of cheaper band-aid solutions. There is no substitute for quality and in the end you will end up spending twice as much trying to avoid spending in the first place. My wallet and tank health both learned this the hard way 😉

John February 24, 2010 at 6:10 pm

It seems like you never have a big enough pump. I always wish I had a larger pump on my 120.

Bryan February 26, 2010 at 8:02 am

Aquariums are natural, so when you respond to problems, try to do it the natural way. Through my many years in the industry I have found that if you use chemicals to “fix” a problem, usually adds to other problems. Remember less is more sometimes.
For example:
• If you start adjusting P.H. you will always have to, if you leave it alone, your fish will adjust.
• If you remove Ammonia your nitrification cycle won’t cycle (there’s no food to grow Nitrites).
• The higher your P.H. is the more toxic your Ammonia is to your fish.
• Most algaecides quickly lower your P.H. and use lots of oxygen, starving the fish of it.
• Water clarifiers chemically bond partials in your tank, which adds an oily slick on the surface which prevents oxygen from entering the water column.
• If you add calcium to your tank it can make your P.H. lower at night.
• Too much of any saltwater additive is toxic to almost everything.
• Even medications can kill your nitrifying bacteria as well as adjust P.H. and sometimes other not so exciting results.
If your Ammonia is high, cut back you’re feeding to every-other day. If you’re tank has suspended algae, cut out the light source for a couple of days. If you’re tank is cloudy, try cleaning filters and bi-weekly water changes. If your calcium is lowering in your saltwater tank, a simple water change will help that as well as replenish additives naturally found in the salt. Use medications sparingly, increasing the heat can help more than most ick medication will do.
Remember Mother Nature knows best!

Coleen March 4, 2010 at 10:55 am

Okay, this is for small tanks, but could be done for large tanks too. I have a betta, and his water has to be rather warm. My home is set for 68 degrees in winter. My kitchen gets colder at night after we go to bed. I have done all that is suggested to keep Buckshot happy, but I couldn’t get the water to stay warm at night.
He already has an emersible heater too. Here is what I did, I took some very thin insulation that had bubble rap inbetween it) used for wrapping pipes in a home. I cut it to size, and wrapped the entire tank, but let the front open/close like a door. It is working great!! In the morning, I open the front, and there he is all happy and hungry!! He is warm and happy throughout the night during our cold winter months here in Michigan. The added insulation to the walls (secured with two way sticky tape) was easy, and did the trick!! This does not look ugly, and I can remove it once winter is over with!! Also, when we take him with us to our camper, we wrap the tank for sure, since it gets really cold at night in that environment from time to time!! He goes where we go!!

james March 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Im a few months into my first marine aquarium. I probibily cant give a lot of advanced tips to you guys.But, with a good friend[fairly seasoned], and a llloooottt of reading. I discovered with all the great products on the market,research thoes also, I was fortunate enough to puchise my set up almost all at one store.listen close though THE BEST ADVICE I ,OR ANYBODY CAN GIVE IS DONT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR! Thats to everyone not just beginners.By the way save our reefs!

Kelly May 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I found all advise helpful, but was very impressed with Bryan simple logic the most informative.

Rob May 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

Just to have the salt-mix prepared in advance (for me, a day or two) of doing the water change is a big help.

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