Archive | August, 2012

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011 | Setting Up a Home Aquarium, Part 2 – Cycling A Fish Tank

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011

On the last episode of the Aquarium Tip Tank podcast we talked about all of the steps to setting up a home aquarium up until the nitrogen cycle. Since then, I’ve been setting up my 30 gallon salt water aquarium and have started the cycling process. Are you in the process of setting up a tropical fish tank?

In this episode I discuss the final step necessary for setting up a home aquarium. Yes, its performing the cycling process of your tropical fish tank. I discuss why the cycling process is necessary, what happens during the cycle, and methods for performing a fish tank cycle.

You can go check out the post about how I performed my aquarium system check here. I took a few pictures documenting the rest of my aquarium setup process, and they are included below.

Draining the Fish Tank after a System Check

Ready to make some Saltwater for the Aquarium

Making saltwater for the aquarium was very quick and easy with Instant Ocean Reef Crystals. Instant Ocean claims that the Reef Crystals are specially formulated for use in reef aquariums and contains extra calcium, additional trace elements, vitamins, and a metal detoxifier to ensure the health and growth of reef life. Check back at Aquarium Tip Tank for more about making saltwater for your aquarium. We’re feeling a video in the works.

The First Bag of Live Sand being added to the Tank

Next, some Live Rock was needed

Saltwater is Necessary for a Marine Aquarium

Now, remember not to freak out if your water turns cloudy when adding the saltwater. Some tiny particles in the live sand are just getting picked up in the water and will take a few hours to clear up. As shown below, my tank had such a milky white cloud that nothing could be seen inside the tank after it was filled with saltwater. It took about 4 to 5 hours to clear up after turning on my canister filter.

I can’t see anything in that cloudy tank!

Then, when I went to check on things I found water on the floor, under the canister filter. As stated in the podcast, Aquarium Tip Tank no longer recommends the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter. At this point, we just don’t trust them. Yours might end up working great. Ours ended up leaking.

Thankfully, it was only the canister filter. I was able to stop the filter and get it out of the tank without too much of a mess. Also, it isn’t absolutely necessary to have a filter running during the cycling of a tank. Some even say that they only run their power filter or canister filter while clearing the cloudy water, then they turn the filter off. The theory is that the filter will end up extracting things that you want to keep in your tank during the cycling process. For example, decaying food particles actually help jump start the cycling process by creating an added ammonia source for beneficial  bacteria to feed on. So, you actually want to keep those decaying food particles in the tank and in the water rather than sucked up in your power filter or canister filter. I may end up just adding a protein skimmer and leaving water filtration up to it and the biological filtration in the tank itself. As always, whatever I decide, you’ll know it here first!

Items Mentioned in this Podcast:

My tank is currently cycling, and creating that biological filtration system. How is your tank coming along? Leave comments below.


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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Be Creative and Functional with Aquascaping

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tips will help you enjoy your tank while making sure that it also fits all of the needs of your livestock. Want to make sure that your tropical fish tank looks a little different from all the rest? Want to make sure you enjoy a little personalized style in your aquarium? But what about making sure that you’re providing a cave or some hiding spots for your butterfly fish at night? What about making sure that you’ve got places to secure all of your corals so that they can get the necessary light they need? Well, go ahead and be creative with your aquascaping, but while you’re doing it just keep in mind the needs of your livestock.

We don’t only talk about reef tanks here, that just happens to be what I’m trying to set up. Therefore, you don’t have to use live rock, or any rocks for that matter. You can go out and get fake decorations that suit both the needs of your creativity and the needs of your livestock. Or, maybe you want to arrange, cut, scrape, and sculpt your rockwork into your own fun and useful decorations! My opinion is…go nuts. If people ask you how and why you aquascaped the way you did, its time for a fun lesson!

Share some pictures of your aquascaping! Fire me an email at if you have too!



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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Test Your Homemade Aquarium Saltwater

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will keep you from fouling your tropical fish tank water and creating all sorts of health problems. Are you sure you put enough salt mix into your RO/DI purified water? Did you add too much salt mix? Maybe some water has evaporated from your saltwater containers and the salinity is a little off. How’s the alkalinity and pH? Grab some test trips and take a few minutes to test your homemade saltwater before just pouring it into your fish tank!

Get out your hydrometer and do a quick test for specific gravity and salinity. Yes, a refractometer is better, but also much more expensive. You want a quicker, more accurate way to measure pH? You can grab a pH Tester for $15 from Amazon and have one delivered to your house in just a few days! These simple tests take less than 2 minutes, and can easily give you peace of mind about the quality of saltwater that you’re about to add to your home aquarium.

Question? Comments? Leave them below!


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TJ’s 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium System Check

If you’re a regular at Aquarium Tip Tank you probably know that I am setting up a new 30 gallon saltwater tropical fish tank, and that I am sharing this process for all so that everybody can see how its done, get some home aquarium tips, and learn from my mistakes. Once you have all of the necessary aquarium equipment on hand, it is time to start setting up your tropical fish tank. All of the steps for home aquarium setup are listed in Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 | Setting up a Home Aquarium, Part 1.

The first step in this process is to get all of the equipment in place, running all of your hoses and plugs, and making sure that everything is in the location that you think you are going to want. You can listen to the story of how I cleaned and leak checked my aquarium tank prior to moving it into position on Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 003, and see how I set up and placed my API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter here.

I attached my heater in place on the back wall of my tank, attached my thermometer to the side, got my light and light stand set up, and ran all of my plugs to my surge protector. At this point, it was time for me to put some RO/DI water into my empty fish tank and run a 24 hour system check. First, here is a quick little video about how I go about filtering my tap water.

Now that I have some RO/DI purified water, its time to fill up my fish tank and perform my 24 hour system check! I have to admit, not everything worked out exactly as planned. I hope you listened to Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 prior to setting up your tank and you had an empty bucket, some towels, and some extra RO/DI purified water handy.

Yes, you’ve probably guessed by now that I had a leak. Much to my dismay, the leak was coming from the API Nexx Canister Filter. BUT WAIT! Don’t return your filters just yet. I did eventually get it to work, and I think it was just user error. That’s the only thing that can really explain the leak because as I write this, the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter is currently working perfectly, and has been for 4 days.

I did try to fix the filtration system on my own – I apologize for not having pictures or video of this, but I was frantically gathering towels, cleaning up water, and turning electrical equipment off and not thinking about grabbing my camera. Initially, the leak was a small stream of water coming from in between the base unit and the canister section. I turned off the filter, dried everything up with a towel, and took the canister section off of the base unit.

On the bottom of the canister section there are 2 male water ports that slide into 2 female water ports on the base unit. The male water ports on the bottom of the canister section both have O-rings around them to seal up the tubing and keep water from leaking. This had to be where water was getting out. I decided to try putting some plumber’s tape around these ports, put the canister section back on the base unit, and try again to see if water stopped leaking. Well, the leak actually got worse.

I turned everything off, cleaned everything up, and at this point I was baffled. This thing could’ve been leaking from anywhere. Having a degree in Mechanical Engineering, it was, of course, time to take the entire system apart for inspection. I grabbed a screwdriver and started taking the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter apart.

This is where having some empty buckets ready really came in handy. In order to take the entire system apart, the tubes feeding the base unit and canister filters with water and returning the water to the tank, had to be removed from the base unit. Well, when you turn the handle to take the canister section off of the base unit, you are also closing valves and re-routing water. It was fairly obvious that there was still water sitting in the water tubes that would need to be drained. However, what happens when you disconnect the water tube from the base unit? Water keeps draining out of that tube until the water level in the aquarium is lower than the pump for the filtration system.  I’m glad I had a few empty buckets around.

I disassembled the entire filtration system, but still couldn’t find any other place that water could be leaking from. It wasn’t until after reassembling everything that I thought to myself, “You know, those o-rings on the male ports of the canister section are there for a reason. Maybe I shouldn’t be covering them with plumber’s tape. Maybe the plumber’s tape actually made the tape worse.”

So, I removed the plumber’s tape from the male ports on the bottom of the canister section of the filtration system. I then went about reconnecting the water tubes to the base unit, and very carefully placing the canister section back onto the base unit making sure that everything is lined up properly and that the canister section was pushed snugly onto the base unit. I turn the handle at the top of the canister section to lock everything in place and open up the valves that allow water to flow through the canisters, and turn on the canister filtration system one more time.

Much to my surprise, there are NO MORE LEAKS! The API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filtration system has been working great for 4 days now! The unfortunate part of all this is that I don’t really have an answer for you about why the thing leaked in the first place. My only guess is that maybe I didn’t have the canister section properly aligned on the base unit. Like I said, maybe it was user error?

I must also say that RENA/API, the manufacturers of the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter, were very quick and fantastic with customer support. I sat down and sent them an email before I took the canister filter apart. The email was sent on a Saturday evening at 6pm through their contact form on their webpage. By the time I woke up on Sunday morning I had a response to my email.

I will continue to keep you updated on the durability of the API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter. Do I have trouble placing the canister section back on the base unit the next time I change my filter media? Do I spend 30 minutes to an hour chasing small leaks every time I take the canister section off the base? Or, does it work perfectly every other time I go to use it?

For now, here’s a video showing how I filled my tank with RO/DI purified water for my system check and how everything is performing and looking after letting my saltwater tropical fish tank system run for 4 days. Enjoy!

Did you perform a 24 hour Aquarium System Check? How did it go? Leave comments or questions below!



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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Turn off your RO/DI Filter

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank aquarium tip will keep you from flooding your floor. Do you have a large container or set of containers that you store your RO/DI purified water in for aquarium top-ups or water changes? Ever leave your RO/DI filter running too long, just to come back and notice that water was flowing over the edges of your container and flooding your floor? Make sure you turn off your RO/DI filter before you overflow your purified water containers!

This tip also comes from experience. Yes, I recently let my RO/DI unit run a little too long. Fortunately, I caught it fairly soon after my purified water container was full, and I fill my containers in a bathtub. So, one thing you can do to keep from flooding your floors is fill your containers in a “safe” place over a drain. But if you let your RO/DI filter run to the point of overflowing your purified water container you’re still wasting a lot of purified water and a lot of money.

One thing that might help remind you to turn your RO/DI filter off in time is setting a timer. For example, if you know it takes about an hour to get 5 gallons of RO/DI water, and you need 20 gallons, then set a timer for 4 hours. Most smart phones these days come with a timer application. Maybe you have a watch with a timer on it. If all else fails you can always use the timer on your oven or a simple, cheap cooking timer.

Ever overflow your RO/DI purified water container? Tell us the story below!


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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010 | Setting Up a Home Aquarium, Part 1

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 010

Its time to start setting up your tropical fish tank and here are a few aquarium tips to help you on your way! We’ve discussed all of the pieces of aquarium equipment that are needed to start a home aquarium. I’ve purchased all of the equipment that I need to start setting up my new saltwater aquarium. Have you acquired all of your aquarium equipment? Are you finally ready to start setting up your home aquarium?

In this episode of the Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast I’ve listed and I discuss all of the steps of setting up a home aquarium. I’ll start with getting all of the equipment set up, and attached to the correct places of the aquarium. I’ll get into performing a 24 hour system check, and I’ll end with starting the nitrogen cycle. In part 2, I will discuss the entire nitrogen cycle process for a home aquarium.  Included below are a few pictures of my home aquarium setup process.

White Vineger, Sponge, and Towel For Cleaning the Aquarium

Above are all of the cleaning supplies I used to do a final wipe down of the tank. Below are the two light timers that I’m using. The Ecoray 60DX LED lighting system has one plug for the blue LED lights and one plug for the white LED lights. I’ve used zip ties to label them so that I know which plug is which. The white zip tie is around the plug for the white LED lights and the neon yellow zip tie is around the plug for the blue LED lights. I would’ve used a blue zip tie for the blue LED lights, but the pack of zip ties that I have didn’t have any blue zip ties. You can also see the plug for the heater. It is not plugged in yet because there is no water in the tank for it to heat. You may also notice that the surge protector has several places to plug things in. The thing I like about this surge protector is that the plugs rotate to easily accommodate different sized plugs.

Two Light Timers. One for the Blue Lights and one for the White Lights

Close-up of white LED light timer

Close-up of blue LED light timer

Ecoray 60DX LED Aquarium Light System on DIY Tank Hanger

Starting to Fill the Fish Tank for a System Check

Items Mentioned in this Podcast:

How’s your Tropical Fish Tank setup coming along? Leave comments and/or questions below!



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Aquarium Tips of the Day | You can Recycle your RO/DI Waste Water

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you be a little green and save a little bit of water. First, we recommend that you use a water filter to perform reverse osmosis and DE-ionize (RO/DI) your tap water before using it to make saltwater, top up your tank with freshwater, or use it for your freshwater aquarium water changes.  However, when a stream of  water is pushed through an RO membrane, two streams of water exit the membrane. One of these streams of exiting water is waste water containing the concentrated contaminants that were removed from the other, purified stream of water that you are going to use for your aquarium.  In fact, there is usually about 4 gallons of concentrated waste water produced for every gallon of purified water.  Doesn’t that seem like a waste of water? Just recycle it!

No, we’re not talking about saving it in containers and putting it through the RO/DI unit again. What we’re talking about is using it to water your house plants, water your lawn and garden, or wash your car. We’ll admit that there are a few logistics that you might have to work out to make this a viable solution for you. After all, getting 20 gallons of RO/DI purified water to change the water in your 100 gallon tank will produce 80 gallons of contaminated waste water.

You will have to find large containers for this waste water and figure out a way to move those containers to the spot where you’re going to re-use the waste water. Maybe your RO/DI filter is in your garage or your basement and it wouldn’t take much effort to run the contaminated water hose to a series of large, water tight trash cans? Or, maybe you only have  a 20 gallon tank and you only need 5 gallons of RO/DI purified water to perform a water change. In that case, you would only need one large, 20 gallon container for your concentrated waste water.

The topic of moving large volumes of water around could produce several more aquarium tips. For now, just know that there are ways to recycle your RO/DI waste water and use it around the house if you don’t want to dump it all down your drain. Also, you might spend some money on the water that you run through your RO/DI unit, but if you recycle your waste water, you won’t have to pay anything for the water you use to water your lawn!

Do you recycle your RO/DI waste water? How do you do it? Leave comments below!



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Unpacking and Installing the Small, but Necessary Aquarium Equipment

You can hear all about some of the small, but necessary aquarium gear on Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 009. However, I ordered all of the aquarium equipment that I need for my new saltwater fish tank and it happened to arrive a few days ago! As always, we’ve decided to share some pictures and insights about unpacking this aquarium gear!

The first box opened actually contained the waterproof floor mat that was eventually placed under the tank stand to protect my carpet. It is the floor mat that can be seen under all of the boxes and aquarium equipment in the next few pictures. The second box to be opened contained the Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer and one bag of the CaribSea Arag-Alive! Live Aragonite Reef Sand. Three bags of the CaribSea live sand were ordered, but the other 2 bags came in a separate shipping box.

The box is opened, revealing the Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer and CaribSea Arag-Alive


The Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer and the CaribSea Arag-Alive Live Sand out of the box and on the Waterproof Floor Mat

The next box of the day had the Aqueon Pro 150 Aquarium Heater, the Marineland Light Timers, the thermostat, some zip ties, and the Belkin 12 outlet Surge Protector.

Opening the box with the Aqueon Pro 150 Heater, light timers, thermostat, zip ties, and surge protector

All of the small aquarium gear unpacked and ready for installation

Next, it was time to install all of this new aquarium equipment! Stay tuned to Aquarium Tip Tank for some pictures and videos showing the installation and testing of these products!

The one thing that hasn’t yet arrived? The RO/DI water filter. Many updates are yet to come!

Pieces of Aquarium Equipment Mentioned in this article:


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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Use a Drip Loop for the Cables of your Aquarium

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you keep from frying your lights, heaters, and other electric aquarium devices. No matter how much you try to prevent water splashes and overflows, you’re never going to completely prevent them in the years that you have your aquarium. The problem is that water can help conduct electricity and there are several pieces of aquarium equipment plugged in somewhere near the tank. It is possible for that splashed, overflowed, or leaked water to travel down the cord to the plug and create a short, a surge, a fire, and possibly electrocute somebody. In order to prevent this, make sure that all of your power cords have a drip loop. We’ve included a picture of a drip loop below. This way, any water traveling down the cord sits at the bottom of the loop until it either evaporates or drips to a spot under and away from the plug and outlet.

Use a Drip Loop on all electrical cords for your Aquarium

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Did I make a bad decision getting a Canister Filter for a Reef Tank?

Maybe I should’ve gone with a sump and/or refugium for my tropical fish and reef tank. I was over at Reef Threads and heard about a post over at Reef Central about 5 things to remove from a reef system. One thing on that list is canister filtration. Well,  I plan on using my API Nexx Aquarium Canister Filter for my new 30 gallon reef tank.

I’ll admit, a sump system with a refugium is probably the very best way to keep a large reef tank. Once set up, a refugium may also be less maintenance than a canister filtration system. However, my tank is only 30 gallons and there just isn’t much room under and around it for an overflow box and an extra tank underneath for the sump. The tank also doesn’t have any built in plumbing for a sump, hence, the need for a hang-on overflow box.

Reef Threads does go on, and they do have a rebuttal for just about every one of the 5 points mentioned in the post. They don’t, however, go so far as to recommend canister filtration for a reef tank.  The issue is that everything needs to be regularly cleaned and maintained. Sponges, bio-balls, filter socks, filter medium, and canister filters can be nitrate factories if you don’t regularly and thoroughly remove, replace, clean off and maintain each of them. However, there are beautiful reef tanks that are kept by many aquarium hobbyists with all of these items in use.

The issue with aquarium canister filters is that they can be a pain in the butt to maintain. With many of them, there are valves you have to make sure you have access to so that you can close them and prevent water from spilling during the filter media change. There can be hoses to move, valves to close, latches to deal with, and several compartments to access in order to thoroughly rinse and change the filter medium. If not changed regularly – about once every 1 or 2 months – the filter medium can build up with too much particulate waste and become a nitrate factory that actually spits nitrates out and back into your aquarium. You also have to prime most canister filters in order to get them started or re-started after every filter medium change. People get lazy and don’t want to deal with all of that every month or two just to change some filter media.

However, I chose the API Nexx Canister Filtration system for a reason. The reason is that it is very quick and easy to change the filter medium and thoroughly clean out the filter medium chamber. With today’s advancements and technologies I can set a reminder in my calendars for a few days before a medium change needs to occur, and order the filter medium that I need. When it arrives a day or two later, I can take the 5 minutes to change out the filter medium and thoroughly rinse out the canister. All it takes withe the API Nexx Canister Filter is about 5 minutes to change the filter medium and thoroughly clean everything. Oh, and there’s no priming necessary.

In conclusion, no, I did not make a bad decision when I selected the API Nexx Canister Filter for my reef aquarium. Yes, there can be less maintenance with a sump and/or refugium once it is up and running. However, as long as there is a regular maintenance schedule, everything on your maintenance checklist gets checked off, and you are diligent about changing and cleaning all of your filter media, then you can have a very healthy and beautiful reef aquarium using all of the items listed in the Reef Central post. The API Nexx Canister Filter also makes filter media changes quick and easy.

What kind of filtration do you use for your reef aquarium? Leave comments below!



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