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   Discus Fish Types

Understanding Different Discus Fish Types Buying discus for the first time can be confusing, because there are now hundreds of phenotypic strains being sold around the world. Discus fish are bred not only in the United States, but also in places such as Hong Kong and Malaysia. Many people ask me about the “original” discus fish. If you are looking for “the mother of all discus fish”, then you are talking about....  Read more....

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       Understanding Different Aquarium Filters When setting up an aquarium , one of the most important pieces of equipment is the filtration system which will keep and maintain a healthy environment for your Discus. Understanding and choosing the right type for your tank can be confusing and challenging but without an effective filtration system, a freshwater tank will quickly transform into a toxic cesspool of waste and ammonia that will kill all its inhabitants. Since local water conditions can vary and since it is important that you know the composition of your local water supply, have it tested at  your local pet store. A single tank may be served by two or more different filtration systems. Each type of filtration system offers its own set of advantages, and in this section, we are going to discuss what specific systems can do for your tank. There are three kinds of filtering systems for fish tanks:             - biological filters,             - chemical filters,             - mechanical filters. The best way to go is to combine all three types to ensure that the water in your tank is free of excess  ammonia and solid waste. Biological Filters Biological filtration often refers to the process of naturally denitrifying the tank water and encouraging the growth of denitrifying bacteria.  A new tank may harm your fish because it has little or no active colonies of nitrifying bacteria yet. The water may look clear when observed from the glass, but pure ammonia levels may be so high that your fish may go into shock and die. This is commonly referred to as New Tank Syndrome and its why it takes a while (sometimes up to three weeks) to properly set up or cycle the tank before your fish are introduced to their new home. However there is a way to drastically shorten the 2 -3 week process , and its called fishless cycling which uses bacteria to establish the correct levels in a new tank… see new tank syndrome.
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A canister filtration system can provide three kinds of filtration, depending on the model of the canister filter: mechanical filtration, chemical filtration, and biological filtration. Usually located on the outside of the tank and uses a water pump to move the water from the tank, through the filter and back to the tank. It is best to have a canister filter and an under-gravel filtering layer at the same time, so the local microbial flora inside the tank is maintained. 
Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle by Eliasch via Wikimedia Commons
Biological filtration is used in the nitrogen cycle (converting fish waste and food debris which first turns into ammonia by bacteria and then into nitrites and nitrates), and is necessary for the health of your fish.  A biological filter, such as an under-gravel filter, forces water through a space where there is a lot of  beneficial bacteria present.
The Under-Gravel Filtering Layer
The under-gravel filtration system is the most common biological filtration system used by aquarists around the world. An under-gravel filter is usually a fitted plastic layer with lots of holes to allow water to pass through it.
The gravel or substrate is then placed on top of this plastic layer. The bacteria responsible for transforming ammonia then grow and colonize the surface of the gravel
The under-gravel filter is connected to an electric pump that re-circulates the water that passes down through the gravel and through the false bottom of the tank. This type of biological filter is considered standard for small, freshwater tanks, and is one of the least expensive filtration systems available on the market today.
Take note of the following reminders when setting up and maintaining an under-gravel filtering system:
 A minimum of three inches of aquarium gravel or substrate is needed for this type of filtering system. The under-gravel plastic layer must be completely buried by the substrate.
 Solid debris, like uneaten food and solid fish waste, should be removed from the substrate. A gravel vacuum may be used to accomplish this maintenance task easily.
Its advised to clean a portion of the gravel (one quarter to one third)  when you do a weekly water replacement,using a gravel vacuum. A gravel vacuum essentially uses mechanical force (via the movement of water) to dislodge and siphon off solid waste and debris trapped on the substrate and its advised never to use detergents to clean the gravel. Do not clean all of the gravel at once, as this will kill off a significant amount of denitrifying bacteria .The beneficial bacteria that is the superstar of a biological filtration system makes its home on the surface of the gravel. Also its not advised to disturb the gravel once the correct levels are achieved as this will release ammonia and nitrites.
Although efficient they are expensive and are not quite maintenance free. The filters should be rinsed off periodically and the tubes kept clear of debris. They are usually used on 80 gallon tanks but have become available for smaller 60 gallon tanks . It should be noted that regular small water changes should still be made. (usually 10- 15% is recommended)