Category Archives: Basics

The Basic Aquarium video series.

75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 5 – planting the level bottom

Here is the follow up video that shows the planting of the level-bottom aquarium in the fish room.  The plants for this tank are all Tropica 1-2-Grow! tissue culture stem plants.


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75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 4 – Planted Contoured Bottom

The plants finally got here and I am able to get these tanks running.  This video shares the steps taken to plant the tank with the contoured bottom.


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75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 3 – Level Bottom with Manzanita

Here is a look at the other tank that I am working on in this planted tank project.  I apologize up front for the messed up footage of attaching suction cups to the piece of wood, but it is a pretty simple procedure.  Just tie suction cups to the wood, and leave some slack in the line to accommodate for the depth of the substrate.


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75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 2 – Contoured Bottom

The second part in this series on planted aquariums will focus on installing the soil substrate, the sand cap and the hardscape in the tank that will have a contoured bottom.  The tank that appears in the video is located in my living room, and will be the centerpiece aquarium in the house.


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75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 1 – Soil Substrates

I am finally getting around to working on a few of the display tanks that are coming back home since closing the warehouse.  I decided to tear all the planted tanks down completely and start over with new substrates.  One 75-gallon tank will be in the family room and be the centerpiece display in in the house, so I am taking my time and being careful to get everything just the way that I want it to be.

The first step is mixing the soil substrate that will be on the bottom of the tank under a cap of fine sand.  The mixture I use is something that hobbyists here in the Madison, WI, area came up with years ago the works well for us:  3 parts clean topsoil, 1 part peat, 1 part calcined clay (Turface).  Some people will also put a medium gravel in the mix, but I do not (the calcined clay serves the same purpose).

This video is the first in a series of however many parts it takes me to tell the story.  Part one is about making the soil mixture….


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Packing Fish for Shipping – Part 5

This is the last part of the series on packaging and shipping fish.  These videos are dedicated to the locking-wall styrofoam inserts for boxes.  I was turned on to these tongue and groove cut boxes a few months ago, and after working with them for a while I am sold.  These boxes are great.  Sourcing insulated boxes can be a pain, especially if you are shipping a lot of fish.  Solid foam boxes are best, but they are also expensive to purchase, plus the cost of getting them to you.  It is hard to keep the price down unless you order them hundreds at a time.  These locking panels are also expensive to ship, but their up-front cost is lower.  When the boxes are not assembled they take up a little less space than when assembled, so they are a little less expensive to ship.  But the biggest advantage, for me anyway, is to finally have a consistent packaging option that is the same every time.

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Packing Fish for Shipping – Part 4 – Kordon Breathing Bags

This episode in the shipping series has two parts, packaging fish into Kordon Breathing Bags (which we usually call ‘Breather Bags’ in the hobby) and then packing the filled bags into boxes.  I am purposefully not going into a LOT of detail here because I do not use Kordon Breather Bags for shipping anything that will be in transit for less than 48 hours.  And since I rarely ship any fish slower than overnight, I do not see much use for Kordon Breathing Bags.

The Kordon web site has all the information you need to learn how to properly use their product.  I use their methods for packing, especially for double-bagging, and have never had problems with using the product.  The advantages are many:

  • constant transfer of carbon dioxide out of the bag and oxygen into the bag, thus reducing acidification of the water in the bag
  • eliminating sloshing of fish
  • saving space in a box

But there are also negatives:

  • fish waste or dead fish fouls the water much faster, so fish must be more carefully purged before packing
  • the added weight of filling a box with breathing bags costs more to ship AND puts the box at risk of breaking as it tumbles through the mail system (when a heavier box drops its mass is more likely to cause the box, or the bags inside it, to break)
  • they are more expensive
  • it is harder to ship spiny fish
  • the bags sometimes seep

I use Kordon Breathing Bags when I need fish to survive packing for more than 48 hours.  When I travel to other countries, Breathing Bags make it possible to keep fish alive for weeks and get them home safely.  I believe that Breathing Bags have revolutionized hobbyist collecting expeditions, and the explosive discovery of new species entering the hobby can be attributed, in part, to Breathing Bag technology.

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Packing Fish for Shipping – Part 3 – Heat Sealers

The use of a heat sealer when packing fish can prevent some problems (such as fish getting trapped in corners) and make is possible to pack more fish in a smaller space.  They are not very expensive… I paid about $60 for my sealer through the Internet, including shipping.  Over the years I have tried many different applications, but now I use it for only a few specific things.  Do you NEED a heat sealer?  Probably not.  But it is a nice thing to have around….

The video was long, but there is one more tip I want to share about using heat sealers:

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Packing Fish for Shipping – Part 2

Bagging the fish properly is the first task in shipping fish.  I hope that it was clear in the first video that the resulting packaging is a little different than what happens at a store, or what we do if we are taking fish to an auction or a swap.  When we bag fish for short, controlled transport the bags are usually larger and tighter.  For shipping through the mail the bags need to be a small as possible and have some flexibility.  The package will undergo some rough treatment in transit, and a bag with a lot of water and/or does not have flex in the sides of the bag is more likely to pop.  The fish should also be triple bagged, with two bags around each set of fish and then all the bags inside a liner bag.  Absorbent material (I use newspaper) should be inside the liner bag.

The second and equally important part of the shipping package equation is the shipping carton.  It needs to be strong and as water resistant.  An insulated styrofoam liner inside a cardboard box is the way to go.  Solid styrofoam liners are absolutely the best choice, but they are expensive.  Free boxes can be found with the right contacts in a drug store, hospital or university science lab, but when you are shipping a lot of fish the endless search for boxes gets old.  Many of us resort to cutting foam panels to fit boxes, which is a good option, but also time consuming.  This video will introduce you to a new technology in foam panels:  tongue and groove routed foam that snap together to make a more solid panel-sided foam liner.


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Packing Fish for Shipping – Part 1

This video is the start of a new, short series on packaging and shipping fish.  I get a lot of requests for advice on shipping.  I also have a new type of insulated box that I want to show off.  This first video is dedicated to bagging the fish and packaging them to survive the rough and tumble experience of being shipped.  We will not get to the actual shipping box until the next video, but I shot them both at the same time, so the wait will not be long.

Disclaimer…  There are many, many ways to package fish for shipping.  My method has proven successful for me over a wide range of conditions and situations.  There are many shippers just as successful as I am, so if you are getting advice from one of them, and do not like the way I do it, my feelings will not be hurt.  I cannot guarantee that if you use my methods of packaging that your fish will make it through the mail without any problems.  Not even the carriers will guarantee the safety of live fish that they are handling.  That should tell us something about how the boxes are handled….


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