Here at NDA we provide top notch service experience. From the hands on hobbyist to the hands off spectators we will customize an aquarium cleaning and maintenance plan to suit your needs. Automation and consistency are key factors to success with all aquariums. With the latest technology we can control and monitor your system from anywhere. Emails, texts, and alerts will be sent to everyone involved with caring for you aquarium system at the first sign of trouble. 24 hour emergency response is always provided to insure the well being of all aquatic life. We will advise you on the recommended frequency of service in accordance to the level of waste production. Regularity of water testing will prevent and ensure the health and stability of your aquarium system.
Types of Aquariums
Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes imaginable and we treat them all with the same love and devotion. From the fancy shrimp sitting in half a gallon tank on your office desk to your dream aquarium of several thousand gallons. Freshwater aquariums can be a little tricky with water chemistry. We recommend to select freshwater fish from one region or from very similar regions due to the importance of pH. African cichlids for example come from an alkaline high pH environment where as tetras, angels, and oscars come from the acidic low pH environment of the Amazon. Selecting fish from similar environments will guarantee maximum coloration and proper intake of nutrients resulting in happy healthy fish.
Marine systems can have many variables to consider before making a permanent selection. Sea horses should not be housed with anything but other sea horses and their cousins like pipe fish. They are slow eaters, fish easily out compete them for food. Seahorses and pipe fish are also prone to being picked on simply because they rely heavily on camouflage for aggression prevention in nature. Sharks and rays are absolutely intriguing but they are not quite they big bad animals that comes to mind when we think ‘shark’. They rely heavily on sense of smell and electrical current. Their sight is very poor so they are targeted easily by quick fish with good vision. Eventually succumbing to the stress of constant fin and tail nipping. Tank mates like groupers and lionfish make excellent companions. Fish with tendencies to swallow large prey are much better choices than tangs, angels, and butterflies that spend all day nibbling algae off the rocks.
Reef systems are for the hands on hobbyists only. You need to know your system and how it works to have success. Spectators that don’t like to get their hands wet should steer clear. Corals can be aggressive just like fish. Not all corals will get along. They also come from a variety of environments. Elegance corals, flowerpots, and long tentacle anemones for example come from shallow warm lagoons filled with sea grass. These areas are typically saturated with nutrients to support the growth of sea grass. A striking difference from the environment of SPS corals found in the offshore reefs where the water is turbulent from the open ocean. Completely void of nutrients and considerably cooler temperature than the lagoons of the shallows. The spaces in between the offshore reefs and lagoons are home to a wide variety of hardy LPS corals, soft corals, polyps, and corallimorphs. Nutrients have been diluted, water is not to warm not to cold, and the tide and turbulence keeps everything moving but lacks the slight chill of the open ocean currants. The biggest mistake made with reef systems is over stocking and there for over feeding. Corals do poorly in high nutrient environments. Fish should be kept to a minimum.
There will always be exceptions to the rules. Some people keep African Cichlids and South American Cichlids together. Some people have a bunch of fish in reef tanks. Some people keep tangs and angels with sharks and rays. Some people are just lucky. Some people are just something else. We will do our best to help guide you to make well informed and educated decisions concerning your choice in livestock. Not everyone will get along though. Even if they were supposed to.
- Salinity/specific gravity- Natural sea water has a salinity of about 34 and specific gravity of 1.025. Hydrometers are used commonly for measurement. Invertebrates are going to be the most sensitive to salinity changes. Shrimp and starfish are good examples. Freshwater baths have been used as a preventative dip for new fish. Salt is sometimes used in ponds and freshwater aquariums as well.
- Temperature- 76 F to 78 F is passed as the ideal range. Lower temperature water holds more oxygen. Temperature will also affect salinity/specific gravity reading. Corals have a tendency to bleach out when exposed to higher temperatures. Fish from faster moving streams tend to enjoy cooler water. Fish only tanks can be kept over 80 F to help suppress parasites.
- pH- (pondus Hydrogenii) or sometimes called power of Hydrogen. Every living thing has an ideal pH range. Absorption of nutrients is directly affected by pH. Fish from the Amazon prefer a low acidic pH while fish from Africa in contrast typically come from a high alkaline pH environment. Lighting will also affect pH. At night pH naturally drops a little.
Foods and Feeding
What type of fish you keep will determine what type of food you feed. There are 3 basic categories and a variety of specialty feeders. Carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores make up the majority. The more protein in the diet the more phosphate is produced. There is a significant difference between foods for freshwater fish and marine fish. The ocean has traces of literally every known element. Because it is so saturated with nutrients marine fish have a slime coat that keeps minerals out and lets freshwater through. Marine fish must consume all of their nutrients. Most freshwater fish are exactly the opposite. Their slime coat prevents water from entering but they can absorb many important nutrients straight from the water. Freshwater fish do not need to consume all their nutrients. The most common problem in the aquarium industry is over feeding. A fishes stomach is usually only as big or smaller than the fishes eye. Do not let food hit the substrate. Small amounts at a time. If any food is left over after feeding you fed to much.
There are 3 main types of filtration; mechanical, chemical, and biological.
- Mechanical- removal of solid particles. Our recommended method for mechanical filtration is a filter sock on a sump. Canister filters can be useful on larger systems. Hang-on-back filters are only recommended for smaller freshwater aquariums. Protein skimmers are for saltwater only. They are responsible for filtering out the finest particles that pass through standard mechanical filtration. There is some debate with skimmers filtering out important nutrients. Putting the skimmer on a timer to only skim for a period of time after scheduled feeding has been recommended. Make sure to remove, replace, or clean filter socks and other mechanical filtration media after 3 to 7 days. Accumulated waste will start to dissolve. Dissolved waste will saturate many types of rocks, wood, and substrates. If a large water change is performed following extended periods of saturation it is likely for dissolved waste to be released and could potentially cause a system crash.
- Chemical- removal of tannin and impurities. Freshwater aquariums sometimes contain drift wood and branches that leach tannin into the water and turn it brown or yellow. Soaking the wood prior to use will prevent some of this but it will continue to leach over time. Good old standard activated carbon should take care it. There are a good variety of chemical medias available. Many can be used to remove harmful medications from the water. It is not recommended to use chemical filtration continuously. Carbon dust has been linked to HLLE (Head and Lateral Line Erosion).
- Biological- ‘the cycle’. Two types of bacteria are responsible for a successful cycle. the first type to develop will convert ammonia into nitrite. The second type converts nitrite into nitrate. Nitrate is why we do water changes. Some products and equipment can be used to help remove nitrate. Fish excrete ammonia in the form of respiration, defication, and urination. Ammonia can also come from uneaten food and and dead/decaying plant or animal matter. Ammonia is toxic. If you get an ammonia spike it will look like milky, cloudy water. The fish might be gasping for air at the surface. Ammonia removes oxygen from the water. This will only happen in the ‘cycle’ stage of set up or if the tank starts crashing.
Advances in the lighting field are constantly being made. Fluorescent lighting is what we were limited to in the beginning. Now we have t-5, halogen, and LED. All have pros and cons.
- T-5 is affordable and reliable but can’t quite get light to the bottom of a deep tank as well as LED or halogens.
- LED are are only as good as the lenses. Many people feel LED is the future for aquariums. They can be expensive to purchase but cheap to run and never need to be replaced. They are good and getting better.
- Halogens are expensive to purchase and expensive to run. They are still leading the way for best lighting for coral. Especially SPS coral.
You don’t always need to have your light on. Fish only tanks that do not have photosynthetic tank mates can go without light as long as they are exposed to ambient room lighting. Fish need a consistent photo period to be happy and healthy. Lights that go on and off at the same time every day. Less light will keep algae growth minimized.
Parasites & Diseases
Parasites, diseases, viruses, and fungus are the enemy. Some parasites like ich are always present in the aquarium. There are 3 stages to the ich life cycle; cyst stage, free swimming, and then once it has attached to the host. Ich will be triggered to emerge from cyst stage when fish loose the protective slime. A fish will loose its slime coat under stressful conditions. A happy healthy fish has a thick coat of slime to prevent parasites and such from hosting. Quarantine is recommended for a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks. After 3 weeks time you can be assured nothing unwanted came home with your new fish. Medication isn’t always necessary for quarantine but it is recommended.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The least stressful method for fish keeping is frequent small water changes rather than a big flush once a month. A weekly water change of 10% would keep your nitrates under 20 ppm in a perfect world if the system was not over stocked and over fed. Any water change over 50% could be detrimental to the beneficial bacteria. You may cause an ammonia spike. Some fish can handle a big flush and extreme changes in environment. Usually aggressive predators. Cleaning mechanical filtration frequently will help reduce waste accumulation. Most aquariums do well with a 25% to 40% water change every other week.