Out with the Old, In with the New:
This is a common tale of woe experienced by way too many aquarium hobbyists. You have decided to upgrade your filtration system, ordered the new filter from Petsolutions or your local pet store, and, as soon as it arrived, you put it together, placed it in operation and removed the old filter. Two to three days later, the freshwater aquarium is a cloudy, white fog! The fish are behaving OK, but the water is so white, it is hard to see through the tank. Obviously, the new filter is not working right and needs to be returned. Well…., most likely, the new filter is working perfectly, but you have removed the beneficial biological filtration associated with the old filter and now have a bacterial bloom. These free floating bacteria will help eliminate the ammonia and nitrites, so the freshwater fish are OK, but there are so many of the bacteria that they cloud the water. We can shorten the time period to re-establish the biological filtration by using products like Bio-Boost or AquaBella to jump-start the desired bacterial colonies. Of course, the hobbyist could have avoided this problem by simply keeping the old filtration unit running for a week or two to allow the development of the nitrifying bacteria in the new filter media. Or, if you were replacing the same type of filter, simply put the old media in the new filter. This is especially easy with the different biological ceramic rings used in most canister filters.
Let there be Light, but don’t forget the Shades:
Another all too common problem can occur when a hobbyist makes a change in the aquarium lighting system. This can either be replacing the old bulbs in the unit, or upgrading to a new lighting system with more output. Old fluorescent bulbs can lose up to 60% of their output in 12 months, so new bulbs will be almost twice as bright. While most saltwater fish would not react badly to a sudden increase in lighting, there are freshwater fish that will suddenly become reclusive and try to hide in the shadows. After several days, they will usually get back to their normal routine. Freshwater plants and marine corals have adapted to the current lighting output. A sudden increase is sort of like taking my pasty Ohio body and throwing me on a beach in Miami, I am going to get burnt! Eventually, they will adapt to the new light intensity and usually benefit from the improved lighting, but you need to slowly adapt them to the new intensity. This can be accomplished by physically raising the light fixture 8-12 inches above the tank and slowly lower it 1 inch every other day. You should also cut back on the photoperiod from maybe 14 hours t0 8, and then increase 30 minutes every other day. With a multi-bulb light unit, you could replace just part of the lights at one time and replace the rest a few weeks later. As much as the plants or corals will appreciate the new, more intense lighting, you have to avoid shocking them with a sudden increase.
Use Ounces, not Pounds, of Cure:
While performing routine aquarium cleaning, you might discover that your fish appear to be sick. Maybe they are “scratching” on the rocks, have small white crystals stuck to their body, or maybe their fins look like they are rotting or have red sores are on the body. Too often, the hobbyist will immediately dump several types of medications and/or water treatments in an attempt to heal their fish. While this might work, it is also just as likely that this type of action will further stress the fish and possibly upset the water quality. It is imperative to have treatments available for bacterial infections or parasite infestations, but you have to be sure just what it is you are trying to eradicate. Shotgun treatments are just too risky. Experience will certainly make it easier to select the proper treatment, and the Internet can be a great helper identifying just what is happening to your fish. I always recommended keeping Melafix and Furan-2 on hand for bacterial/fungal treatments, using the Melafix first, and, if there was no improvement after 3 to 5 days, switch to the Furan-2. For parasite treatments, it can really depend on the type of fish you are keeping. For Cichlid-style tanks, Rid Ich+ or Formalin-MS are fine; for Community tanks, maybe Maracide; for marine Fish-Only tanks, Cupramine; and for Reef tanks, No Ich Marine or Stop Parasite. While caution should be followed when picking the medications, be sure to follow the instructions/dosing. Just like the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” also applies to bacteria. If the initial dose is too low, the surviving bacteria will have developed an immunity and be more difficult to eliminate. You would most likely have to switch to a new medication. You do not have to have a closet full of aquarium supplies, but a few essential medications and water treatments make a great first aid kit.