Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: Pro Setups
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"Pro Setups"

We always have, and always will, put together "custom" setups - with exactly the tank and equipment the customer wants. But after a few years in business, it became clear to us that many hobbyists, especially newer ones, didn't know where to start when it came to choosing from the vast array of tanks, filters, heaters, and so on that are needed for a complete setup. As we went through the various options item by item, one question seemed to pop up again and again:

"What would you buy?"

Tiger BarbsAnd that's the idea behind our "PRO" Setups - we've put together packages that we ourselves might take home. The equipment included isn't cheap, high-markup junk, nor is it the latest overpriced high-tech rage, but it's all dependable, well-built, and low maintainence - designed to keep an aquarium clean and healthy with a minimum of work. And unlike some of the pre-packaged setups available, we're able to choose the best products from a number of different manufacturers.

As time went on, we've found several benefits in offering standardized setups, not the least of which is that it allows customers to realistically compare prices on complete setups of various sizes and shapes. In addition, the "PRO" Setups are a good starting point for more custom packages: we can make additions or substitutions to personalize each package to meet the needs and desires of the customer. Finally, selling good quality equipment to beginners has helped us establish a large base of successful hobbyists.

"PRO" Setups have evolved over the years to take advantage of new and improved products and better values. Here's what they currently include:

  • Aquarium by All Glass AquariumTM - these are some of the finest aquariums in the country, at affordable prices - and made right here in the Milwaukee area! Available in many sizes with black, oak or walnut colored trims.
  • Fluorescent Deluxe Full Hood - also from All Glass AquariumTM, these full plastic hoods fit the tanks precisely, and have knockouts along the back to accommodate filters, heaters and so forth.
  • Penn PlaxTM Deluxe Aquarium Heater - a very good mid-priced heater that installs simply.
  • Digital Thermometer - a liquid crystal model from PetcrestTM;, accurate and easy to read.
  • PenguinTM Power Filter from MarinelandTM - good mechanical, chemical and biological filtration - all in one unit and sized to fit the tank. Includes filter cartridge.
  • ChallengerTM Air Pump from Tetra / Second Nature. Quiet enough for the living room, with enough power to operate the sponge filter and airstone(s). May be upgraded to even quieter or larger WhisperTM air pump for a small difference in price.
  • WhisperTM Check Valve(s) - prevents water from siphoning down airline tubing into pump in the event of a power outage. This is an important safety accessory that should be utilized in every setup.
  • Airline Tubing - for connecting the air pump to the various aeration devices.
  • Undergravel Sponge Bio-Filter from PetcrestTM - provides biological filtration like an undergravel filter, without the risks and is a good temporary backup in case main filter fails. Also helps in clearing up cloudy water caused by particles too fine for standard filters to catch.
  • Airstone(s) - provides good aeration and circulation and can be strategically placed to add water current to "dead" spots.
  • Plastic Gang Valve from Penn Plax PlasticsTM - divides air flow to aerating devices and allows adjustment of flow rate to each item.
  • Start RightTM Water Conditioner from Jungle Products - removes chlorine and chloramine and adds electrolytes, instantly "conditions" new water to be safe for fish.
  • Aquarium Salt - for freshwater tanks (please see our article SALT in a FRESHwater Tank? for further information.

(Gravel, background, decorations and stand are not included in "PRO" Setup price)

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For Saltwater Setups

Saltwater setups include all of the above (except the "freshwater" salt), plus:

  • Instant OceanTM saltwater mix - still the standard to which all other salt mixes are compared.
  • SeatestTM hydrometer - measures how much salt is dissolved in your water. Unlike the old "bobber" style, these hydrometers are easy to read and hard to break.
  • Crushed Coral gravel - helps maintain a stable pH and covers the aquarium bottom.

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Setup Instructions for "PRO" Setup

  1. Location - an aquarium can be part of the decor of any room, but should be kept away from direct sunlight (causes excess algae), drafts and heat vents.
  2. Placement - aquarium stands provide stable, sturdy support and come in a variety of styles. Some household furniture may support an aquarium, but make sure it is strong (aquariums weigh nearly 10 lbs. per gallon when filled), flat and level. Whatever the base, all four corners of the aquarium must touch the base before filling. It is sometimes necessary to shim the aquarium (place pieces of cardboard under one or more corners) to level it.
  3. Install Sponge Filter - assemble as per package, attach end of airline tubing, then place in rear corner of aquarium.
  4. Wash Gravel - most pre-packaged gravels need no washing. All natural-type gravels need to be rinsed thoroughly. Place 5 to 10 lbs. of gravel into a large bucket and fill with lukewarm water. Stir gravel and pour off water. Repeat until rinse water is clear. Place rinsed gravel into aquarium, burying sponge portion of sponge filter. Never use soaps or detergents on anything that is to be used in an aquarium!
  5. Fill Aquarium - to about 3 inches from top with water about 75o F. City of Milwaukee water (or West Allis, Greenfield, Wauwatosa) is excellent. Well water (New Berlin, Franklin, Brookfield, etc.) may be used, but certain species of fish may be hard to acclimate. If possible, use half hard and half softened water.
  6. Install Air System - (see illustrations with pump) hang gang valve on top edge of back of aquarium. Cut section of airline to go from sponge filter to nearest vertical valve spigot and attach. Attach airline to airstone and place airstone in back corner opposite sponge filter. Trim airline and attach to next vertical valve spigot. Use remaining airline to connect air pump to horizontal valve spigot. Cut airline approximately 6 inches from pump and insert check valve. (Check valve only allows air to flow in one direction - check by blowing into it.)
  7. Install Power Filter - see directions with filter for assembly. Hang filter on back of aquarium.
  8. Mount Hood/Light Unit - cut out back section ( a small steak knife or fine tooth saw works well) to accommodate heater and power filter (slide power filter to line up with opening). Airlines go through slots in corners of cover.
  9. Mount Heater - through hood. Do not plug in heater yet (see heater instructions). Attach to back glass of aquarium.
  10. Attach Thermometer - to outside aquarium glass - above gravel line.
  11. Decorate - Slope gravel towards back corners. Add other decorations to taste. Airstone may be buried in gravel or hidden behind rocks or plants.
  12. Top Off Aquarium - with 75o F water.
  13. Plug In - air pump, heater and light. Adjust heater as per instructions on box.
  14. Adjust Air Volume - close the valve to the sponge filter and open the "bleeder" (no airline attached) valve fully. Slowly close bleeder until airstone bubbles vigorously but does not splash. Then open sponge filter valve slowly until it also bubbles. Leave bleeder valve partly open!
  15. Add Aquarium Salt (1 Tablespoon/5gal) and Start RightTM (1 teaspoon/5gal)
  16. Wait at least 24 hours before adding fish or live plants.

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Additional Directions for Saltwater Setups:

  1. Add salt - approximately one cup of the Instant OceanTM sea salt per 5 gallons of water (instead of the aquarium salt).
  2. Wait until well dissolved (stirring occassionally will help), then use the hydrometer to determine the specific gravity. If the reading is less than 1.023, add one cup of Instant OceanTM to the tank. Repeat until reading is between 1.023 and 1.025.
  3. Wait at least 24 hours before adding fish or invertebrates.

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New Tank Syndrome

A brand new or thoroughly cleaned aquarium goes through a "break-in" period during which the watiod during which the water chemistry is unbalanced and quite dangerous to the fish. The more fish and food in the aquarium, the more dangerous the cycle. It is recommended that only a few, hardy fish be added to a new aquarium and fed one small meal per day. The cycle usually takes 3 to 5 weeks to complete in freshwater, starting with the day the first fish are added. We can easily check to see if your tank has completed this cycle if you bring in a water sample. Do not add fish while the cycle is in progress. For a more detailed explanation, please see A Typical Break-In Cycle.

Copyright © 1998 James M. Kostich
All rights reserved.

Aquatics Unlimited | 3550 S. 108th Street | Greenfield, WI 53228
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