Author: Edward

Seachem Paraguard – A Cure-All?

There is no such thing as a cure-all, but Seachem Paraguard is as close as you’re going to get. Many people’s recommendation to treat fish involves salt regardless of the illness and thus it has this reputation of being a must-have medication for your aquarium but in reality, the must-have medication is Paraguard.

Salt can be harmful to fish like corydoras catfish or plecos and many plants don’t tolerate salt well at all. Salt is also not nearly effective enough, in my opinion, to warrant the side-effects. I view it as an old-fashioned method of treatment and because a lot of local fish stores are being run by an older generation they often pass along their perception of salt treatments and thus the cycle of misinformation continues.

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About Seachem Paraguard: 

According to Seachem, Paraguard uses a “proprietary, synergistic blend of aldehydes, malachite green and fish protective polymers that effectively and efficiently eradicates many ectoparasites (ich, etc.) as well as external fungal/bacterial/viral lesions like fin rot.” Seachem doesn’t market Paraguard as being plant and invertebrate safe because they say it would be impossible to test it with every single plant and invert under any possible water parameters. However, from personal experience I can attest to the fact that Paraguard is an extremely safe medication that can be used in planted aquariums, aquariums with scaleless fish like corydoras catfish and aquariums with inverts such as snails.

Paraguard is also safe in the sense it won’t harm your beneficial bacteria bed, causing your tank to crash and in all likelihood it won’t stain your silicone and/or decor. There is the chance of minimal stains as there is malachite green in the medication but I’ve never heard of it causing any sort of stains. I have also personally used it many times and never have I encountered any issues with it staining or even tinting the water a different color. It does come out of the bottle a very deep blue, but it has no noticeable effect on the color of the tank water after a few seconds of it entering the aquarium.

Why is it a Must Have?

Seachem Paraguard is a must-have medication in your cabinet for numerous reasons, I like the fact that it’s a very safe medication which is well-tolerated by all types of fish. Personally, I’ve used it with scaleless fish like Figure Eight Puffers and corydoras catfish, I’ve used it with Nertie Snails and Red Cherry Shrimp and a number of community fish like German Blue Rams, Tetras and Guppies. Another big reason I use it is because of it’s versatility.

If you aren’t exactly sure what is wrong with your fish then Paraguard is always a good choice, not only is it safe and effective but it treats such a wide-range of illnesses that you can successfully treat many different diseases without a proper diagnosis. It’s versatility also comes in handy when you’re dealing with multiple diseases at the same time and it also helps prevent secondary infections that take hold when a fish’s immune system is already comprised by an illness.

Personally, I have successfully treated ich, fin rot and fungal infections with Paraguard. I also dip all incoming plants in it overnight to greatly reduce the risk of ich outbreaks in my main tanks.

Dosing Directions:

Paraguard is a very easy medication to dose, however the dosing directions provided below (from Seachem’s website) should be followed to ensure safety and effectiveness.

 “In the aquarium, use 5 mL (1 capful) to every 40 L (10 gallons*). Repeat daily as required as long as fish show no stress. For 1 hour dips, use 3 mL per 4 L (1 gallon*). Dips may be extended if fish show no evidence of stress.”

Water changes during treatment aren’t necessary as after 24 hours, Paraguard is no longer active and will not build up to toxic levels. This also means that you must repeat the dose daily if you wish to achieve maximum effectiveness. If water changes are required for any other reason, you should change the water and then do that day’s dosage of Paraguard immediately after the water change to ensure you’re maintaining a therapeutic dosage in the water column.

If you have any other questions about Seachem Paraguard, feel free to message me on our Facebook page and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as I possibly can!

What Should I Feed my Fish?

Fish food pellets in hand close-up. carp, child, closeup

Isn’t it weird that while you’re sitting down drinking a Dr. Pepper and eating a slice of cheese pizza you’re trying to determine the absolute healthiest food to feed your fish? Many fish-keepers obsess over what they need to feed their fish. In this article we will discuss the best brands of food, which types of food to feed to different fish and also brands to avoid. This will only discuss pellets, flakes and freeze-dried foods. Not every single brand will be listed so if you have a specific question, feel free to message me on Facebook!

Before we get started though, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Foods that have ‘meals’ (fish meal, squid meal, shrimp meal, vegetable meal, etc.) as the first ingredient are typically lower quality.
  • Foods that begin their ingredient list with ‘whole’ foods (whole Atlantic krill, whole fish, whole shrimp) are almost always high-quality foods.
  • Using natural ingredients like garlic, real seaweeds, different kinds of algae are all signs that the food you’re looking at is of high-quality. Enriching the food with different vitamins is also a common practice in more expensive fish foods.
  • Some fish, like Figure Eight Puffers, need a specialized diet which is something you’ll need to research on your own.

Below-Average Food Brands:

In no specific order, here are the brands of fish food you often see which I think you should avoid. These foods are typically cheaper and use more fillers and less, if any, premium ingredients. Often times, companies will use fillers like wheat to cut costs. Regardless of what specific food they’re selling, I won’t purchase any food from these brands.

  • Tetra
  • Aqueon
  • API
  • Marineland
  • Wardley’s

Average/Above-Average Food Brands:

These brands of food are better quality than those listed above, whilst some of their foods will use fillers, often times they use less fillers and more quality ingredients. Often times, their freeze-dried products will be enhanced with vitamins whereas the cheaper brands will not be. A good example of this is Hikari’s Bloodworms vs Tetra’s. The main difference is that Hikari enhances their Bloodworms with vitamins whereas Tetra does nothing to them.  Personally, I wouldn’t recommend all of their products (flakes/pellets) but I do use Hikari’s Daphnia, Bloodworms and their sinking wafers amongst other things.

  • Hikari
  • New Era
  • Elive

The Best Fish Foods:

There are two brands of fish food that I’m comfortable saying all of their products are of the highest-quality and will readily try any of their foods. Those brands are New Life Spectrum and Omega One. These foods are significantly more expensive but you get what you pay for, they are made with the highest-quality ingredients like whole krill, whole fish, garlic, kelp, different seaweeds, different algaes and a plethora of vitamins. I use numerous pellets from New Life Spectrum. The Betta formula, Cichild formula, small fish formula, the medicated Hex Shield pellets and many more. These pellets are devoured by all of my fish, help keep them happy and healthy and they do not cloud or dirty the tank in anyway. I also use Omega One’s community flakes, veggie rounds and their Betta pellets. You can’t go wrong with either of these brands.

Now that we’ve gone over which specific brands of food you should buy, let’s talk about the basics of what to feed different types of fish.

Your Average Community Fish:

Many people have kept your common community fish at one point or another, these include but are not limited to, many Tetras, Angels, Barbs, Guppies, Mollies, Platies, Danios, Gouramis, Rasboras, Swordtails, etc. These fish usually aren’t particularly picky about what they eat and for the most part they’re omnivores. A good staple food is something like Omega One Tropical Flakes or New Life Spectrum Community Fish Formula. This diet should be supplemented with treats such as Hikari’s freeze-dried Bloodworms and Daphnia.

Bottom Feeders:

Things like Corydoras catfish, Otocinclus catfish and various plecos are often bought to act as a clean-up crew. However, it’s still very important to supplement their diet. My two favorite foods to feed my Sterbai cories and my plecos are Omega One Veggie Rounds and Hikari Sinking Wafers.

Cichilds: 

Often times people are more concerned about what their Cichilds eat than other fish for some reason. It will depend on the specific fish you keep but I keep Rams and Appistogrammas and I feed them primarily New Life Spectrum Cichild Formula.  I supplement that diet with a variety of other foods including Hikari’s Bloodworms and Daphnia.

Discus:

Discus are very expensive fish so I see absolutely no reason to feed them anything but the best, New Life Spectrum Discus Formula or Omega One Discus Pellets. I’ve heard stories where people’s Discus didn’t like these pellets but what I usually find is the Discus are used to eating live and/or frozen foods which are obviously more appealing than pellets regardless of the brand.

Goldfish/Koi:

While I don’t have any personal experience feeding Goldfish or Koi, if I had Goldfish or Koi I would feed them New Life Spectrum Goldfish Formula or Koi Formula. Goldfish and Koi require less protein and fats and more ash content and veggie matter than your average fish. I’ve also heard great things about Hikari’s Goldfish and Koi food but the ingredients used in New Life Spectrum’s foods look to be higher quality.

Bettas:

I do however have plenty of experience with Bettas, personally, I prefer New Life Spectrum Betta Formula. If you prefer flakes, Omega One Betta Buffet is a good option. I’ve also used Hikari’s formula, I found that the colors and activity level in my Bettas increased when I switched to New Life Spectrum’s Betta Formula from Hikari’s.

Fry/Juvenile Fish:

There a few different foods on the market specifically made for fry, my favorite is New Life Spectrum Fry Starter which is an almost dust-like food that’s high in proteins, fats and vitamins to promote healthy growth. A cheaper, easier to find option, would be Hikari First Bites. While still effective the ingredient list isn’t quite as impressive as New Life Spectrum’s though.

As your fish get a little bit older, I recommend using New Life Spectrum Grow. This is a 0.5mm pellet designed to promote rapid, healthy growth in all sorts of fish. This is also hormone-free.

Soaking Food in Garlic – Good or Bad?

Absolutely a good thing, some studies have shown garlic extract helps combat internal parasites. While I’m not confident in that, I am confident in saying that garlic is a natural immune system booster which will help keep your fish healthy. They also love the taste of it. There are easy DIY methods that are cheaper but I’m not allowed in my kitchen so I use Seachem Garlic Guard. Personally I try to do this at least once per week, sometimes two or three times.

Medicated Foods:

The only two medicated foods I’ve used are New Life Spectrum’s Hex Shield (internal parasites/bloat) and Ick Shield. Both of these are great, I’ve used them multiple times with success. Ick Shield is also the only medicine on the market that I’ve ever heard of that disrupts ich during it’s most dangerous stage, the trophont stage. If you want to learn more about ich, click here!

Final Thoughts:

It’s impossible to cover every single food option for every single fish but I hope that this article not only serves as a guide as to which companies make the best food but it also helps teach you how to read the ingredient list at the pet store and make your own decision as to whether you should buy that food or not. Feel free to message me on Facebook if you want my opinion on a specific food!

German Blue Ram Care Guide

Quick Information:

Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons (20 Gallons Recommended)
Experience Required: Moderate
Water Conditions: 78-84 degrees, pH of 5.5-7.0. Soft to moderately hard water.
Maximum Size: 3 inches
Temperament: Typically Peaceful

Background Information:

The German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) is a staple fish in the aquarium hobby, this species of dwarf cichild comes from South America. These waters are soft and warm with a low pH and dense vegetation. They’re an omnivorous fish, feeding mostly off of plant matter and small organisms in the wild.

Aquarium Conditions/Difficulty of Keeping:

The German Blue Ram fish has a bad reputation of being an extremely delicate and difficult fish to keep and often times that scares people away just from the aquarium, like a german shepherd dog. In reality that’s not entirely true, there is a problem with the quality of some German Blue Rams though. They are often inbred to achieve the brightest colors but by doing so the breeders weaken the gene pool. Some fish are even injected or grown with hormones to increase the vibrancy of the fish’s color. What this ultimately leads to is a very fragile fish which is prone to illness. If you get your German Blue Ram from a reputable source they are actually quite hardy fish, provided your water is clean.

In the aquarium they do require pristine water conditions and will thrive in soft, acidic water. However, as long as the hardness and pH of your water is stable you shouldn’t have a problem keeping tank-raised fish as they typically adjust fairly well. However, you must be very careful when adjusting pH because if it fluctuates it causes a lot of stress and will rapidly weaken your fish’s immune system. As a general guideline it’s best to leave the pH alone and allow your fish to adjust unless you’re at extremes.

Rams do best in a planted aquarium with lots of caves and other structures to explore but they will be just fine in the average aquarium provided it’s not overstocked. While German Blue Rams are generally very peaceful dwarf cichilds they are territorial (especially when breeding) so it’s best to provide plenty of floor-space for each Ram (or pair) to form their own territory. I recommend breaking up the line of sight from one side of the aquarium to the other to help keep aggression down by providing a sense of space and security. German Blue Rams are also known to be very intelligent fish and in a bare-tank they will become bored and more aggressive. However, if the above needs are met they’re generally a peaceful fish and perfectly suited for the community tank.

Personality/Appearance:

A lot of people adore German Blue Rams for their likable characteristics and beauty. These fish are relatively small but they still display vibrant blues and yellows and pink. Along with sharp black lines. Coloration varies slightly depending on gender but more on that later. Rams are unique also because once they form a pair, their bond is very strong. Paired Rams will stay together throughout their life, they’ll occupy the same territory together so a pair of Rams will require roughly the same amount of territory as a single Ram. This pair will share parenting duties and fiercely protect their territory and their young together.

Sexing:

There are a lot of misconceptions about how to sex German Blue Rams, the biggest being that if a Ram has blue in their black dot then it’s a female. This is simply not true. There are two ways to sex German Blue Rams that I find to be reliable, if the third dorsal ray is taller than the first two, then it’s a male. However, if that’s not the case then it’s usually a female. All females have a pink belly and typically have shorter fins in general than their male counterparts. Males of this fish species typically have longer fins and their bellies aren’t pink. A lot of the time in fish shops they’re too young to accurately sex because as they mature their colors become more vibrant and females develop their pink belly. However, if the third dorsal ray is taller than the first two then it’s a pretty good bet you have a male, regardless of age.

I’m happy to sex your German Blue Ram for you if you send me a picture of them via Facebook.

Breeding:

While this is a general overview of German Blue Rams, not a breeding guide, we’ll briefly touch on breeding. Paired Rams will breed in soft, acidic water with temperatures in the low to mid 80’s. Sometimes these fish will spawn in less-than-ideal water conditions but rarely, if ever, will any fry hatch unless the above conditions are met. Being a species of chiclid, Rams have unique personalities and some Rams that have been bred in Asian farms for generations are terrible parents and often have a very difficult time keeping their young alive. Other Rams will make much better parents and will be able to successfully parent their fry, especially wild caught examples. Attempting to breed German Blue Rams in a community tank greatly reduces the chances of any fry surviving and typically only the very best parents will be able to raise any amount of fry in the community environment. Even with great parents this still requires a great deal of luck.

Diet:

The German Blue Ram is an omnivore which will accept a wide variety of food in the aquarium. At first when it’s introduced to a new enviornment they can be finicky at first but they should begin eating community fish flakes, bloodworms, cichild pellets, shrimp pellets, etc. are all viable food options. They’ll also enjoy frozen and/or live foods.

As with all fish, it’s best to give them a varied diet. 

Final Thoughts:

Typically German Blue Rams make perfect community fish, however there is never a guarantee when it comes to fish-keeping so always have a backup plan in-place. Lastly, this guide talks specifically about German Blue Rams but most of this information is true for Electric Blue Rams, Golden Rams and Balloon Belly Rams. These are all different genetic strains of the same fish so their care is very similar. Sexing them is slightly different and the above Rams are generally less hardy than German Blue Rams because there’s a better chance of them being injected or inbred to achieve such vibrant coloration.

A Comprehensive Guide to Curing Ich

If you keep fish then surely you’ve dealt with ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), a very common parasitic infection which can reek havoc on your aquarium if you don’t quickly take the correct steps in order to control and eradicate the outbreak.

Ich is one of, if not, the most mistreated fish illness that a hobbyist could expect to encounter. There are so many false rumors and opinions out there which is why the illness can be so deadly. This article will provide you with a detailed explanation of what ich is and which treatment methods are best for you.

What is Ich?

Ich is an external parasite which has three different life stages, the most harmful stage is where the parasite is attached to the fish’s body and is usually visible to the naked eye, at this stage it’s considered a trophont. The second stage is what we call it a tomont, during this stage the parasite is free-swimming until it attaches itself to something inside of the aquarium such as substrate or plants. Once attached it begins to reproduce. Finally, it’s last stage we refer to it as thermonts, in this stage the parasite is free-swimming and once again looking for a host to burrow itself into and begin the process all over again. Ich can be difficult to treat because it lives not only on the fish but in the aquarium, so removing infected fish will not help. Once ich has infected one of your fish the parasite is ability to rapidly reproduce and within just a few days can infect many, if not all, of your fish. And probably the biggest problem with ich is that it can only be treated with medication during it’s free-swimming stages. When the organism is attached to the fish it can’t be harmed until it naturally falls off. It also can’t be killed whilst it’s reproducing.

Now let’s delve a little deeper into what ich actually does, when a fish is infected with ich this nasty parasite burrows itself under the fish’s protective slime coat and begins to feed off of the fish. This irritates and stresses the fish but the real reason ich can kill your fish is because when ich infects the gills it makes it very difficult for the fish to get enough oxygen and the fish that’s infected will eventually suffocate.

There are two theories on how to treat ich, one of the theories involves medication and a slight heat increase. The second theory involves a severe heat increase and the use of salt. I prefer the first method but we’ll go over them both.

If treating Ich with medicine you must remove any form of chemical filtration or you’ll be removing the medication. It’s also best to raise the temperature to the low 80’s, depending on what type of fish you keep. This is because the warmer temperature speeds up ich’s life-cycle so it will fall off of the fish faster and become vulnerable to medication.

Do my fish have ich?

One good thing about ich is it’s extremely easy to diagnose, the most common symptom are white specks that look like grains of salt all over your fish. It’s best to begin treatment at the first sign of illness, you may only notice one or two white specks but within a few days there could be hundreds. Some other early warning signs are fish rubbing against things in the aquarium as if they’re trying to itch themselves. Loss of appetite, trouble breathing and clamped fins are all telltale signs of ich.

FOREWARNING: Never stop treatment too early. Continue whichever treatment you’re using for a minimum of three days after there are no signs of ich on any of your fish. Recommended to continue treatment for a full week to ensure you completely eradicate the parasite.

 

Treating Ich with Medications:

Treating ich with medication is my favorite approach, there are plenty of very effective medications on the market and if you have a question on a specific medication please shoot me a Facebook message and I’ll be sure to reply to you as soon as I physically can.  However, my favorite medications to use are Seachem Paraguard and New Life Spectrem Ick Shield. These two medications are safe for all freshwater fish, invertebrates and plants and I’ve used them in combination together. Paraguard is an effective broad-range medication that is made to “eradicate ectoparasites and fungal, bacterial, and viral lesions” according to Seachem. I use and recommend Paraguard because of how easy to use and how effective it is. Furthermore it does an excellent job of fighting any secondary infections that may develop as your fish’s immune system is compromised. Paraguard also doesn’t stain your water despite the fact it’s deep blue. New Life Spectrem’s Ick Shield is a medicated pellet designed to actually disrupt the trophont as it feeds on it’s host. To my knowledge this is the only medication on the market which does this. I personally have only used this in combination with Paraguard, never by itself, and I strongly urge you to never use this medication by itself. Because it’s only effective once eaten by the fish it has no way of killing any free-swimming or reproducing parasites so while it helps to reduce stress on your fish by limiting the damage the trophont can do it won’t fully remove ich from your aquarium and then you’ll end up with a recurring case of ich.

Follow the instructions on the bottle of whatever medication you’re using.

Treating Ich with Salt & Heat:

A lot of people prefer traditional methods as opposed to chemicals and for those people treating ich with a combination of aquarium salt or any salt that’s pure sodium chloride (not marine salts) and raised temperature can work well. This method doesn’t work well with cold water fish such as goldfish and certain corydoras catfish and any fish that’s sensitive salt will likely be even more stressed out by this treatment. A lot of plants also do very poorly when salt is added to the water. For these reasons I don’t recommend you use this method. However, if you want to use it anyway, you should raise the temperature of your water to at least 85 degrees slowly over the course of a few hours, this will stop the ich from reproducing and will do a great job of limiting the amount of fish that can be infected. If you’re confident in your heater and you keep fish like Discus that can withstand high temperatures you can slowly raise the temperature to 90 degrees which will literally kill the parasite. These high temperatures will reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen your water can hold so it’s absolutely vital you increase surface agitation when treating this way. Adding one to three teaspoons of salt per gallon is a generally accepted guideline. When adding salt, do it over a slow period of time and never add the salt directly to your tank as undissolved salts will burn your fish. Instead, mix the salt in a bucket with water and then do a small water change and add the salty water to your aquarium once you’re confident all of the salt is dissolved.

There are reports of ich that became resistant to salt & heat so if you’ve tried this method and haven’t had success then I recommend using medication. 

Preventing Ich:

The number one way to prevent ich is to setup a quarantine tank and quarantine all new fish for a minimum of 14 days. However, I know that not everybody has the ability and/or patience to do this. There are no other ways to guarantee you won’t have an ich breakout but keeping your fish stress-free and your aquarium clean is the best way to prevent all diseases, ich included.  On top of this, I highly recommend feeding your fish a varied diet to make sure their immune systems are strong. Soaking food in a product like Seachem Garlic Guard once or twice a week is a good way to help naturally boost your fish’s immune system.

If you have any further questions, feel free to message me on our Facebook page and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as I physically can.