Home Page of Aquarium Science

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Author : David Bogert

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Time To Read :
12 minutes
This is a website dedicated to freshwater aquariums. It is based on SCIENCE AND LOGIC, not on parroted internet “advice”, anecdotal “It worked great for me“, or the marketing hype of some profit-driven marketer.

Author: David Bogert

What needs to be emphasized is that this research has pointed out that there are a huge number of ways to be successful with freshwater aquariums. The aquarium is a natural system and Mother Nature is very flexible. One does not need to invest huge amounts of money and time in fish-keeping to have beautiful tanks. Nor does one need to do a ton of research before getting into the hobby. And above all, there is simply no “right way” to do things in this hobby.

So if one is a newcomer to the hobby just relax and enjoy it. If you obsess over every detail and believe all the negativity on social media along the lines of “don’t do this or you will kill your fish” you will not enjoy the hobby and you will leave in relatively short order.

Black Molly
Black Molly

There are 18 chapters leading to over 400 articles on almost all aspects of keeping a freshwater aquarium. These articles have NO links to profit-making sites and thus have no “questionable motivations” in their recommendations, unlike all the for-profit sites you will find with Google. Note I do admit a bias against several companies which blatantly use huge amounts of egregious “pseudoscientific bedazzlement” to sell worthless aquarium products. I can’t help it.

Bookmark and browse! Note that a search bar at the top of each page allows one to search the entire site for any particular subject. Note that the entire website is “open” in that any written material can be freely quoted and used without regard to copyrights.

Barbodes semifasciolatus Golden Barb
Barbodes semifasciolatus – Golden Barb

Multilevel Information

This website is designed in descending levels of difficulty, the first level on any given subject which is very simple, a second more complicated level, in some cases going all the way down to sixth and seventh levels which can be very wordy, convoluted and difficult. Note that because each article has to stand on it own in this hierarchy, we often repeat ourselves as we go from simple to complex explanations.

Level 1: Keeping it VERY Simple

We start out with a very simple fifteen-point list of what to do with a new aquarium, This simple list can be found in the article:

1. The Basic Aquarium Guide

White Cloud Mountain Minnow
Tanichthys albonubes – White Cloud Mountain Minnow

Level 2: Guidelines for Beginners, Keeping it Somewhat Simple

The second level of complexity just adds some science to the setup of an aquarium. There are three topics of interest: chlorine, feeding, and “cycling”. This second level of complexity is covered in this article:

1.1. Guidelines for a Beginner

Pethia conchonius Rosy Barb
Pethia conchonius – Rosy Barb

Level 3: Guidelines for Beginners, Just a Little More Depth

In this website, there are fourteen “Guidelines for the Beginner” from 1.1.1 through 1.1.14. . These a series of guidelines that will guide a newcomer to the hobby through the basics of keeping an aquarium. They do it in a little more depth than the fifteen points in the introductory chapter “1. The Basic Aquarium Guide”. They also add more data to the second level of instructions (the three points above). These fourteen articles are the third level in this website’s hierarchy.

  • What do you do when you buy your first aquarium? This might help you:
    1.1.1. What to do with Your First Aquarium
  • Because fish pee a chemical called “ammonia” and that ammonia is bad for a fish, it is desirable (BUT NOT NECESSARY!) to treat a new tank for four to six weeks with a process called “cycling”:
    1.1.2. A Simple Way to Cycle an Aquarium
  • All fish food found on the shelf of the local fish store is fine for all fish. Food high in protein is best for the health of the aquarium:
    1.1.3. Fish Food Simplified
  • Other than removing chlorine the water parameters are not important:
    1.1.4. Water Parameters
  • A filter is needed for all fish. But it is important to not replace or clean the filter too often:
    1.1.5. Filters for the Newbie
  • The media in the filter is also a factor to consider if you want more than a few small fish:
    1.1.6. Filter Media
  • Good aeration will give healthy fish:
    1.1.7. Aeration
  • Starting a new tank one should always have a light stocking of just a few fish:
    1.1.8. Stocking a Tank
  • A brown film will develop on pretty much all surfaces in any new tank. It is called “brown algae” even though it can be many different organisms in addition to “algae”. Experienced hobbyists just live with it. It is part of a healthy aquarium:
    1.1.9. Brown Algae in a New Tank
  • One of the most challenging tanks to keep is a small tank with five or so three-inch fish and five live plants (CONTRARY TO ALL ADVICE FROM LOCAL FISH STORES AND THE INTERNET). Any beginner should start with plastic plants:
    1.1.10. Plants and the New Hobbyist
  • New fish get one disease quite often. These are white specks on the skin of the fish which are called “white spots” or “ich”:
    1.1.11. The Most Common Fish Disease – Ich
  • And if you want the “optimum” conditions for your fish, there are five elements to doing that:
    1.1.12. How to Make Fish Thrive
  • So let’s look at a typical beginner hobbyist’s first aquarium and score it by the five criteria in the previous article:
    1.1.12.1. Guideline Example
  • Here we go into greater depth on the aquarium parameters which are not important, with links to even further levels in yet greater depth:
    1.1.12.2. Unimportant Aquarium Parameters
  • And the fish selection for a beginner is quite broad, with neons, discus, and a few other fish being avoided. This link will help:
    1.1.13. Fish for the Beginner
  • Most beginners listen to the social media parroting about what is “required” for maintenance. And they end up spending way too much time for maintenance. Because they find maintenance such a pain they end up leaving the hobby. It does not have to be this way:
    1.1.14. Aquarium Maintenance
Xiphophorus maculatus Red Wag Platy
Xiphophorus maculatus – Red Wag Platy

Level 4: Basic Fishkeeping, General Interest Articles

Then there are sections 1.2. through 1.7. in this chapter. These are some lengthy and somewhat verbose articles which form a fourth level in our hierarchy.

The articles 1.2 through 1.4 delve into some topics about where to obtain information about aquariums and how reliable this information is:

  • There are a huge number of myths parroted around social media about keeping fish. These are the top 150:
    1.2. 150 Myths
  • Then there is a huge amount of often egregious deceptions and downright fallacies promulgated by manufacturers in search of a profit:
    1.3. Marketing Hype
  • And there are many sources of data one can use to set up and start an aquarium. Unfortunately, virtually all of them are very unreliable, to put it mildly:
    1.4. Sources of Data
  • Many comments on web forums and Facebook groups are from the marketing departments of suppliers of aquarium products pushing false narratives about their products:
    1.4.1. Facebook Fake Accounts

Articles 1.5. through 1.7. continue with some more in-depth general information on aquariums:

  • There are a huge number of variations on the scheme of keeping fish in an aquarium. This skims the surface of these options:
    1.5. Aquarium Options
  • Some photos of beginner tropical aquariums:
    1.5.1. Aquarium Examples
  • It is unfortunately relatively common to lose a lot of fish overnight or within days of each other. This goes into the reasons for those deaths in some depth:
    1.6. Causes of Rapid Fish Deaths
  • A very frustrating set of circumstances is when a fish keeper loses fish slowly, over weeks or months. This goes into that in some depth:
    1.7. Causes of Slow Fish Deaths
Dalmation Molly
Dalmation Molly

Levels 5 and 6: Fishkeeping in Depth

Then there is the fifth level of difficulty in the 18 chapters seen either under this section (mobile use) or on the right side (computer screen). These 18 “chapters” then lead to the sixth level of over 400 “articles” on various aquarium subjects.

Levels 7 and 8: The Scientific Research Papers

Some of these articles have a seventh and even an eighth level of difficulty which delve into the basic science underlying the hobby with many scientific journal articles, book excerpts, and other references. These are long and tedious dissertations only for real aquarium nerds like the author.

Endler Guppy
Endler Guppy

Hierarchy

The articles are arranged in a hierarchy. Take the three articles on nitrate for instance. The main article “5. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Chlorine” is a general overview. This article links at the bottom of its 5. article to the hyperlink “5.4. Safe Nitrate Levels”. The article, “5.4. Safe Nitrate Levels”, talks only about nitrate. At the bottom of the 5.4. article, there is a link to the article “5.4.1. Nitrate in Depth”. This final 5.4.1. article is a very boring, verbose, and lengthy look at the scientific papers on nitrate. This is a very typical “hierarchy”.

Black Phantom Tetra
Hyphessobrycon megalopterus – Black Phantom Tetra

Verbosity

Note that the deeper one goes into a topic the more likely the explanation will become somewhat verbose and rambling. The problem has to do with the statistical problem of proving a negative. An individual on social media can easily claim “livebearers only do well in hard water“. This isn’t true but proving it isn’t true is very difficult. Thus the verbosity.

Comic Picture
Answers – Simple but wrong – Complex but right

It is very difficult to prove that livebearers do NOT only do well with hard water. No matter how you test the “fact” you will be open to the “but I kept my livebearers in soft water and they died” claims. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE, does this common logical mistake many times a day. When two things occur simultaneously, it is human nature to say one thing caused the other thing, whatever it is. The old saying in science is “correlation is not causation”. The fish died from something like tetrahymena, capillaria, a chlorine pulse, or bacterial infection but the water chemistry will get the blame.

Repetition

Because of the nature of the web, each article needs to stand on its own. So some points have to be repeated in several articles. For instance, the nature of autotrophic beneficial bacteria versus heterotrophic beneficial bacteria is necessary knowledge for six separate articles. As a result, the explanation for these two points is repeated six times.

This “proving a negative” and repetition have resulted in this website containing close to 700,000 words. Books are normally 250 to 500 words to a page. So this website has close to 1,400 to 2,800 “pages” of information. Not many books have even 300 pages in them.

Corydoras Sterbai
Corydoras Sterbai

Fish Photos in Guidelines for Beginners

The fish photos scattered randomly throughout this first “Beginner” chapter of the website are all easy beginner fish. This was very deliberate to allow a beginner to get a taste of the fish available without making them pine over something like discus or neons, which are both NOT beginner fish.

Trochilocharax ornatus Crystal Rainbow Tetra
Trochilocharax ornatus – Crystal Rainbow Tetra

Aquarium Research

What needs to be emphasized is that all this research has pointed out that there are a huge number of ways to be successful with aquariums. One does not need to invest huge amounts of money and time in fish-keeping to have beautiful tanks. Nor does one need to do a ton of research before getting into the hobby. And above all, there is simply no “right way” to do things in this hobby.

If one believes all the “do a lot of research before doing this or you will kill your poor fish” that is spouted on social media one will never get to enjoy what is a very easy hobby. When I started the hobby over fifty years ago there was none of the fancy “science” that can now be found in the hobby. And my fish thrived. They were just fine!

Keeping Fish is Easy!

Trichogaster trichopterus Gold Gourami
Trichopodus trichopterus – Gold Gourami

I’ve analyzed many beginner aquariums now and the problems they have been having with their new aquariums. If I had to take all the problems down to one it would be that the beginners are simply trying too hard.

The beginners are using every chemical (Cichlid salt, pH buffer, Stress Coat, Ammo-lock, Purigen, Carbon, ad. Infinitum) on the shelf at the local fish store. They are buying high-end canister filters and filling them with high-priced media like Matrix or BioHome. They are cleaning their filter and their tank very thoroughly once a week. They are changing 50% of their water every week. They are changing out their filter cartridges once a month.

Betta
Betta

They are doing a complete water test every day and obsessing over the results. They are feeding per the directions on the fish food can. They are religiously following the profit-driven, completely incorrect, instructions that came with their aquarium. All these things are just too much and, in many cases, downright counterproductive. They kill the fish.

When it comes to aquariums and Mother Nature, the old “KISS” acronym applies, namely KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. Think low tech all the way and your fish will thrive. Each aquarium is a miniature ecosystem where Mother Nature should be left alone to do what Mother Nature does best, namely establish a stable balance.

The Author : David Bogert

The author’s credentials are in the following article

97. Author of Aquariumscience.org