Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates (Nitrogen cycle). In short, ammonia is produced by fish waste as well as decaying food. Nitrifying bacteria transform the highly toxic ammonia to the less toxic nitrites and then to relatively less toxic nitrates which are used by plants. Inability of the filtration system to cope with the biological substrate results in sudden rise of ammonia. A regular test (at least once per week for the first two months and every other week afterwards) is essential. In case you notice ammonia, a water change should be done immediately followed by another one after a day. You should then find the correct time intervals between scheduled water changes. Lowering the pH will save some fishes since at pH below 7 ammonia is in the form of ammonium (NH4+) which is far less toxic. However, with some species (e.g. African cichlids of the Rift Lakes) it is not recommended to lower the pH from 8.5 to 7.0 in an instance. It is better to start repeated large volume changes (40% the first day, followed by additional 25% changes every day till you get the clear mark). The time needed for the nitrifying bacteria to install and multiply to sufficient numbers is called "breaking time" and may last up to a month if bacteria are not exogenously added by you at regular intervals, until the biological filter is established.
More related articles : Cycling your Tank , Skim the Cream
Aggression A characteristic of some fish species, definitely associated with cichlids, since it is part of their nature. This can be overcome by allowing some target fish in your tank which will either create a more safe environment for your cichlids or become the target of their aggression. Usually, fast swimming fish are the best candidates, provided they can stand the water conditions the cichlids need. Another approach is an overcrowded tank. In such a situation territories are very difficult to be established, therefore all fish have to leave with each other since there is nothing to defend. This has a disadvantage however: You will not be able to see the original cichlid behavior in such a tank. A fish preparing its spawning pit in your tank will stop it if another fish passes by every second to see what is going on or search for food in that pit (like botias). Therefore it is up to everyone's taste and budget. I would prefer a very big aquarium (700-900 liters) with 20 fishes (not more than 5-6 different but compatible species) in it. I am far more interested in cichlid behavior than in seeing tons of fish swimming around.
More related articles : Compatible Fish - a complicated issue , Fish Aggression - A Pictorial Guide , Africans and Catfishes , Peaceful catfishes - A myth , Which tank size will fit my fish ?
Photos of Fish and Plants : If you have the kind of intense lighting I have then you are among the lucky ones. You can simply take your 35mm camera, load a roll of film (preferably 100 ASA for most detail) and shoot directly. With the 7 fluorescent tubes installed I can use f/2 and 1/125 sec for most of my pictures, a speed which will freeze anything but the most quick move in my tank. This has the disadvantage that you have a very shallow depth of field which means waiting till the fish comes in focus but, in turn, you get a blurred background which helps your fish to stand out in the foreground. You can always choose which background is the best one before shooting. Plants don't move therefore you can increase the f/stop to 4 and decrease the speed to 1/60 (you will have to find a support for your camera; your hands are vibrating too much at such speeds). Then comes your creativity. I have used bellows for close ups and multiple flash units with remote triggers for some shots though this demands some background in photography (all camera automation is lost and you have to do lots of calculations and bracketing for such a shot).
More related articles : Taking Fish Photos , Taking fish photos - expanding the hobby , Taking pictures in the wild, my short list of hints , Building a system around your camera , Depth of field and Prime vs. Zoom lenses , Techniques for taking underwater photos , Aquarium Photography , Fishy Images , RAW (NEF) vs. JPEG
Photo editing and Web publishing : Taking good shots is regarded as absolutely essential if you are planning to publish them in your site so that other people can see them. However, very rarely does a photo, when printed, resemble what you were seeing when you took the shot. You can work miracles with a scanner and image editing software. Such software include exotic but extremely efficient Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw Photopaint while there are some efficient and cheap image editors like Macromedia Xres, Photo Paint Shop, Microsoft Imaging etc. Tips : Scan at 250 dpi the most. More detail will not be viewable on the net anyway. The size of the file is proportionally to the dpi's you select. When preparing to publish on the web choose the less "detail" JPEG or GIF formats. The files of this format can be 1/4th the size of the original BMP or TIFF file and will also download in 1/4th of the time. Very few surfers will stop and wait for half an hour to view your 4 MB, true color, hi-res image. You can't even attach it in your E-mails if asked to…
More related articles : What should a "fishy" site look like? , Time to update MCH.. again ! ,
Websites and Books : The information you need in order to successfully setup and run your aquarium must come from two sources : websites and books. I prefer websites to books for two reasons. Firstly, they come from enthusiasts like all of us who want to tell the whole story and have very useful DIY articles. These sites when visited contain very useful information, perhaps not on many topics but after you visit a lot of them you get the clearest picture you can have. Secondly, these websites are alive. They are updated very frequently (every month or so) therefore new information is regularly entered (not possible in books). You may also contact the author via E-mail and get a straightforward answer to your questions. Some websites are focusing on very special subjects (e.g. Amano or Tropica) which might require purchasing many books to get the same info. Most sites contain articles from professionals which cover certain aspects of the hobby in detail (like the fantastic articles in JAWS). Another kind of website is the so called "Website Rings" which are groups of sites referring to the same subject (e.g. the Cichlid Web Ring or the African Cichlids List for exchanging information with people who keep the same fish with you). Once you visit one of them you can visit the rest of them as well in a random order and get all the info you need.
Books on the other hand contain much more information than any website, are more objective and they are always handy. When you have a problem with a fish it is definitely easier to check it in a book and find the remedy proposed. A good Freshwater (or marine) Atlas is a must. When choosing such a book get one that contains information on the various species. If you are determined to have a special group of fishes (Lake Malawi Cichlids for example) you should get an Atlas devoted to this group. You will have more pictures and a wealth of information in your hands.
More related articles : Book Review Section