(Those cool fish and inverts)
We stock a wide variety of freshwater, saltwater and corals – as long as it’s not
illegal or too venomous! Due to the ever changing stock on hand, please call to
see if we have the fish you’re looking for. We always suggest you research the livestock
to make sure you can cater to their long-term needs. Below are a few links we feel
are good places to start your search.
Saltwater Discussion New Aquarist
I have been keeping aquariums for a long time, and when people see our tanks, they ask the same questions. Are they hard to take of? Do you have to test the water all the time?
My answer is, it’s not hard, but there are thing to do. You need to do partial water changes, and monitor water quality on a regular basis. The maintenance involved is not that time consuming, or difficult. Monitoring the water quality gets easier with experience. It takes a little time to know what normal is. To know normal feeding behavior, normal color, normal breathing etc. You will be a pro before you know it. This is not rocket science, but there is a need to understand a little biology, and be willing to do the required maintenance. Those of us who keep aquariums are responsible for the animals we keep. This can be a wonderful hobby. You can view your own window to the ocean, with unusual and beautiful animals. It still blows me away after almost 30 years. There are many different techniques of keeping aquariums, and I learn something new every time I turn around. I read a lot, and talk with others that are advanced hobbyist, or raise fish for a living. Farmers have more than one way to grow corn, and there is more than one way to keep an aquarium. There are some basic things to know and understand when keeping a saltwater aquarium. Things like the nitrogen cycle, salinity, pH, temperature. You don’t have to be an expert on the subjects, just know some of the basics, and how they relate to each other. This will help you when choosing what kind of tank you want, and what questions to ask. Try to find a local fish store that knows about these subjects, and hopefully a little more. I know there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. Find someone you trust, and research as much as you can. There is a popular author whose books I read, and reread who wrote more biology less technology. That’s a pretty good approach to take at first, heck that is a good approach long term.
The nitrogen cycle describes how organic wastes are broken down to less toxic compounds in the aquarium. See maintenance on tip page, on this web site. Marine aquariums are started more slowly than freshwater. That is we start with fish that can tolerate the nitrogen cycle (spike in ammonia, and nitrite). All aquariums go thru a nitrogen cycle. By the way nothing biologically will happen till you add the starter fish, or life to the aquarium. This process(the nitrogen cycle) can take several weeks. Freshwater fish have evolved with a tolerance to changes in water chemistry, due to run offs during heavy rains, or the drop of water levels during droughts. The tropical saltwater fish we keep come from a very stable environment, with a big ole ocean behind that reef, and their water chemistry does not vary. Monitor the Nitrogen Cycle. Ammonia and nitrite can block oxygen from entering the blood stream for fish. The point is to go slow at first, until you know the tank has cycled. Bring in a water sample to us, or buy a test kit to monitor this process. This process can take several weeks to develop, with the nitrite part of the cycle taking longer.
Scientist and marine biologist measure salinity in (ppt.) parts per thousand. Hobbyist typically uses specific gravity as a measurement for salinity. Natural seawater has a specific gravity of 1.026, or 34 to 37 ppt.To measure specific gravity we use a tool called a hydrometer. Simple tool to use just float until it stops bouncing, or fill the instrument and wait until indicator needle becomes steady. Then look closely at the number it is on, easy to use. More than one way to grow corn and more than one way to keep an aquarium, here at Darby’s we set up a new aquarium with a specific gravity of 1.019 to 1.020.With lower salinity you can fit more oxygen in the water, and give the starter fish a little easier time. Later after the tank has cycled you can bump up the salinity, depending on what geographical area you want to keep.
Definition of pH.
A numerical measure of the acid, or alkalinity of water. This is a measure of positive and negative charged hydrogen ions. The pH scale is logarithmic, so each point represents a 10 times greater concentration than the previous point. A pH of 7 is neutral, anything lower is considered the acid side, and anything higher is considered the basic or alkaline side. Most new marine aquarist overlooks the importance of monitoring pH. This is the one thing that will fluctuate on a regular basis. There are many different reasons, gas exchange, detritus, and fish metabolism, to name a few. The mineral salts in saltwater is at a higher concentration, than in the fish’s blood. Through a process called osmosis the fish lose body fluid to the saltier side, and have to drink the water they swim in, to replace the fluids lost. This takes energy. This osmoregulation becomes more difficult when there are swings in pH. Every marine aquarist should have a pH test kit, and a buffer to bring it back up. Try to keep your aquarium’s pH at8.2-8.3.
Regular maintenance siphoning out waste products and partial water changes to replace mineral salts, with good aeration, and internal water currents, will help keep the pH stable.
Temperature is an important factor to consider. Here at Darby’s we keep tropical fish. They come from 23 degrees latitude north, and south, of the equator where it is always warm. The water on a tropical reef is very low in nutrients very clear, and warm. The water in temperate (cold) areas is very high in nutrients, low visibility, and absent of reef building corals. These are two separate environments, with different animals. Here in central Texas it is easier to keep tropical animals, because of the climate. It is hard to keep a goby from the coast of California where the water temperature is 50 degrees, without a chiller, to cool the water. What I am trying to say is research the fish you want to keep, for geography, and diet. We have a responsibility to the animals we keep for there well being, as aquarist.
This is an enjoyable hobby that is very interesting. Keeping an aquarium does not have to be a chore, with the right equipment, and good husbandry it is neither hard, nor time consuming. Feel free to ask us questions, and thank-you for visiting this web site.
Calcium / Alkalinity
Adding calcium and alkalinity products is confusing to most aquarists because it is a very complex subject. What we need to do is keep things balanced.
In nature, everything wants to achieve equilibrium. Seawater is a mix of many different mineral salts some positive charged, some negative charged, and they dance in and out of solution depending on PH, temperature and biological load on the aquarium. Every aquarium is different, the following equivalences is a loose guide to balance calcium / alkalinity in a reef tank.
Alkalinity—2.5 to 4 meq/l or 7 to 11 dKH
Calcium--- 380 to 450 ppm
Maintaining Calcium / Alkalinity is important to hard corals and the formation of coralline algae, and the general wellbeing of the reef that you are keeping. This is a simplified explanation. Other elements can effect the balance like magnesium and phosphate. To learn more, ask what books we recommend.
Thank-you for shopping with us, The Staff @ Darby’s