Aquarium Questions


Most aquarium questions pertain to similar things whether the tank is a freshwater or a saltwater setup.  What should the temperature be kept at? What type of lighting is needed in the type of tank I have? What is pH and at what level should it be maintained? How is salinity or specific gravity determined in a saltwater aquarium? What kind of filtration do I need? What do I need to set up my fish tank? Many of these questions have been answered in prior articles and where it is appropriate I will link them.


What should the temperature be kept at in my aquarium?

The majority of aquariums kept in a house or place of business are considered tropical, freshwater or saltwater, and the average temperature is usually between 73˚ and 82˚ Fahrenheit.  There are some cases, reefs in particular, where a temperature of 82˚ will be too high for the invertebrates.  Also, many experienced aquarists may try their luck with freshwater fish like trout or deep-water saltwater fish like pinecones that will require a chiller to get the tank temperature low enough for the fish to thrive.

What type of lighting is needed in the type of tank I have?

The truth is most fish will do ok with very little light of even in some cases just the ambient light in the surrounding room.  Having said that, the type of tank that you choose and whether it has live plants in freshwater or anemones and invertebrates in saltwater will determine the lighting that you will require for you aquarium. These links, lighting for aquariums and saltwater tank lights, may be able to help you determine what your needs are.

What is pH and at what level should it be maintained?

Briefly, because it’s kind of boring, pH is a measure of the effect acidity or alkalinity has on a solution (water in this case).  Pure water has a pH value of 7 on a scale from 0 to 14.  As the scale approaches 0 the solution is more acidic and as it rises towards 14 it is said to be more alkaline or basic. Most aquarium shops have pH test kits available.  The vast majority of freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby will be kept somewhere above 6.5 to as high as 8.2.  In saltwater that pH level increases to 7.8 to 8.5 or there bouts.

How is salinity or specific gravity determined in a saltwater aquarium?

Salinity is the total amount of salt dissolved in seawater.  The average salinity in the ocean is between 34 to 37 parts per thousand (ppt).  Specific gravity is another way tohydrometer determine the proper salt content in seawater. The specific gravity of saltwater at 35 ppt is 1.026.  Hydrometers and refractometers that measure the specific gravity in saltwater can be purchased at most local pet stores or aquarium shops.  Marine aquariums range from 1.020 to 1.026.  However, it is best to keep a saltwater tank closer to 1.020 if it is a fish only tank.  This lower specific gravity can act as a deterrent to many parasites.  Reef aquariums are usually kept around 1.023 because of the needs of the anemones and invertebrates.

What kind of filtration do I need?

There are 3 significant kinds of filtering used in fish tanks– mechanical, chemical and biological. An excellent mix making use of all of these kinds of filtering would be a good idea. Biological filtering uses beneficial bacterium to break down waste product in the water. Mechanical filters include such things as fluidized beds and sponge or foam filters that trap free floating particles and remove them from the water.  Chemical filters utilize carbon to remove dissolved molecules like medicines or odors from the water and help give that crystal clear look.

What do I need to set up my fish tank?

First of all you will need the aquarium.  Depending on your requirements as well as those of the fish that you would like to keep, fish tanks range from five gallons to skies the limit.  Though most freshwater fish can be kept in tanks from ten to a hundred gallons, it is not a very wise choice to go to a tank smaller than 55 gallons for a saltwater aquarium.  Ask your local shop for information that will suit your particular requirements.

Secondly, you will need filtration.  Filters come in all shapes and sizes.  Typically freshwater tanks will utilize an internal filter or a hang on the back filter or possibly even a canister filter.  Filtration for saltwater will usually be either a canister filter or a wet dry filter with various accessories according to the needs of the tank.

The third item needed for an aquarium setup is the substrate.  Though it was not discussed in this article, substrates include gravel, crushed coral or sand.

Fourthly, a heater will be needed to control the temperature of the tank.  A good heater will help to avoid large fluctuations in temperature so that the fish will not get stressed.  A chiller may be considered if the climate is very hot or if the inhabitants of the aquarium require cooler water.

The fifth thing that will be needed for any setup will be lighting.  Lighting can help to enhance the colors of your fish and really make them pop.  The downside to lighting is when the wrong bulbs are used or the spectrums have diminished in an old bulb, which can cause unwanted algae growth.  An aquarium light should never be used as a night-light.

Not all aquarium questions were answered in this article because, let’s face it, it would be impossible.  I attempted to answer the tops ones that are presented to me most often.  Specifics were not addressed on purpose.  That information is included in other posts on this site.

Article Name
Aquarium Questions
A brief overview of some of the most asked aquarium questions.

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