Category: External Parasites

Bloodfin Tetras

10 Aquarium Essentials

Introduction: The Aquarium Essentials List

Even though fish pets are generally considered relatively low-investment, no fuss pets compared to other common domestic animals like dogs, setting up a perfect aquarium for them is neither an easy nor simple task. Behind every beautiful aquarium lies a properly selected assembly of aquarium equipment. With such a great variety in products, however, ranging from the completely essential, like filters, heaters and thermometers, to the useful, like air pumps all the way to the completely useless, it is natural that one gets confused when trying to make the best purchases available.

We have compiled the following list to shed some light on the matter. We’ve emphasized items that will enhance your underwater friends’ health, the aesthetics of their environment, and also products that will help you regulate and monitor their living conditions more easily. If something catches your eye, be sure to give it a try, as we’ve tried to bring together products that couple high quality with very reasonable prices.

KENT Marine Essential Elements

KENT Marine Essential ElementsFor over fifteen years, KENT Marine has been offering solutions that help the proper care and nurture of fresh or saltwater habitats. They have offered a wide range of nutritional products so that corals, planktivorous fish and over invertebrates receive the nutrients they require to maximize growth and be as healthy as possible. Kent Marine Essential Elements works as follows: By replacing biologically important trace minerals that often get removed by fish and invertebrates, through protein skimming, ozone and carbon filtration, it maintains and increases your inhabitant’s vigor and color.

It does not contain detrimental heavy metals, phosphates, nitrates or silicates, nor does it promote undesirable algae growth. Using just one teaspoon every one to two weeks should be enough. One should be cautious to not taste, swallow or breathe this product, as it is not made for human consumption. Naturally, it should be kept away from children.

Currently priced at only $10.63 on Amazon, and with a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating, this is an excellent choice for everyone interested in getting nearly all of the trace elements they will ever require for their aquarium in one go.

SunGrow: Natural Betta Leaves – Simulate Aquatic Environment

 SunGrow: Natural Betta Leaves - Simulate Aquatic Environment

A rather specialized product, Sungrow’s Natural Betta Leaves are specifically designed to work with betta fish. Bettas are highly territorial fishes and are often known to express high levels of aggression even against each other – an event that many times results in the death of one or both combatants. Sungrow’s Betta Leaves promise immediate improvements in the behavior of your betta fish – they create an environment similar to their natural habitat, and thus reduce their stress, induce breeding and boost their immunity system.

They act as a shelter to your fishes, as a cover and as place for them to lay their eggs. Through the release of beneficial minerals, they will help keep your betta’s skin and scales hard, yet smooth and slippery.

The product is really easy to use. You just drop a few leaves into your tack. Note how this package holds ten pieces. Currently sporting a 4.6 out of 5 stars rating, and priced at just $8.90, SunGrow’s leaves are quite the bargain if you are interested in making an excellent gift to your betta fish.

CNZ: Digital LCD Thermometer for Aquarium Fish Tank, Vivarium Reptile Terrarium

CNZ Digital LCD Thermometer for Aquarium Fish Tank, Vivarium Reptile Terrarium

A very important piece in every aquarium essential’s list is definitely the thermometer. They conveniently allow water temperature and heater accuracy monitoring. CNZ’s Digital LCD Thermometer, is an excellent high quality choice if you’re interested in getting an aquarium thermometer. It is really easy to use: You just need to attach the device to the side of your aquarium and terrarium. The temperature probe sits inside the aquarium to monitor temperature – there is also the option for displaying temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.

Included in the package is an additional battery, other than the already pre-installed battery, to save you an extra trip or two to the store. Currently priced at $5.89 and with FREE shipping, this thermometer is highly recommended. At a very cheap price, you will enjoy convenient monitoring of parameters that are essential to your pets’ health. And if you don’t want to take us on our word, the 4.3 out of 5 stars rating, after 233 customer reviews, speaks volumes of the product’s quality.

Blue Ribbon: Exotic Environments Caribbean Living Reef Aquarium Ornament

Now you might call this out and say this product is not essential to your aquarium. It is an ornament, designed to enhance the looks and aesthetics of your aquarium and is in no way comparable to other really essential stuff, like heaters and thermometers. And you would be right, in a sense. Most fish would be able to live without Blue Ribbon’s Living Reef Aquarium Ornament. Honestly, though, would you wish for them to live in an undecorated environment? Much how you like your bedroom or living room to feel comfortable and look appealing, so do your fish.

And in that sense, this hand-painted, vibrant ornament will do wonders for your fish. It is hand-crafted by talented artisans to look exactly like the real thing. It is both safe and non-toxic, it is suitable for freshwater, saltwater & terrariums, and is a solid, one piece construction. If you ever thought of buying something just because you liked the way it looked, you might want to consider doing the same for your fishes. They are bound to love this product. And at the price of $9,37, it’s a pretty negligible investment for you.

Penn Plax: Wizard’s Castle. Aquarium Decoration, Hand Painted with Realistic Details, over 10 inches highWizard’s Castle. Aquarium Decoration, Hand Painted with Realistic Details, over 10 inches high

Penn Plax’s Wizard’s Castle falls under the decoration and ornament type of products. But this one really turns it up to eleven. If you have any thoughts of getting decorative products for your aquarium and are interested in making it look grand and memorable, well, this is essential. Featuring a large, grey castle perched upon a rocky hill, it looks amazing and very realistic, all the way from its colors to the little, hand-painted details in its walls and towers. It provides a huge visual interest for your fish, sporting holes and passageways for fish to pass through, sleep into or hide in.

It is 8 inches wide by 10.2 inches high and 6.2 inches deep. The castle is double sided and thus able to be placed anywhere in your fish tank. Made of safe, durable resin, it is fine to use in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. After one hundred seventy seven customer reviews, this product currently sports a 4.1 out of 5 stars rating on amazon. Priced at just $17.52, it is a great opportunity to take your aquarium’s aesthetics to the next level, on a small budget.

Tetra: 77849 Whisper Air Pump, up to 60-Gallon

Whisper Air Pump, up to 60-GallonAn air pump is a device used to move air, possibly under pressure. Their purpose is two-fold: They insure your tank maintains an adequate concentration of oxygen. Secondly, they are used to force water through a filter. Therefore, while not directly putting oxygen into the water, they greatly improve its circulation. A big downside most such products have is that they create a lot of noise when in use. Fear not, however, as Tetra’s Whisper Air Pump, as its name heavily suggests makes minimal noise, akin to a whisper. This is achieved by its sound damping chambers that flatten sound wave frequencies. The brand has many different sizes, ranging from up to 10 gallons all the way up to 300 gallons – thus you’re guaranteed to find a product suitable for your aquarium size.

Buying this will keep both you and your fish pets happy and healthier, minimizing the annoying noise while maximizing the quality of your aquarium’s water condition all at once. The Whisper Air Pump is currently priced at $19.80, and holds a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating, even after a staggering 929 customer review sample. You are definitely getting your money’s worth.

Zoo Med: Floating Betta Log

Floating Betta LogAs has already been previously mentioned in this article, betta fishes, even though they are a common choice of underwater pets, are rather restless and prone to aggression. If you already have them or if you’re interested in getting them, you would be wise to invest in a product or two to keep them happy and satisfied. Otherwise, you might end up having less than desirable consequences. Zoo Med’s floating Betta log is made to address exactly this problem.

Essentially it is a decorative ornament but made in way to appeal specifically to this kind of fish. It will keep them happy, reducing their stress and relieving them of the boredom that comes with the territory of captivity. It is three inches in length and two and a half inches in width. And your bettas will love it. It is currently priced at just $9.18, and holds a 4.2 out of 5 stars rating, after having being reviewed 444 times by customers.

LUFFY Betta Balls: Live Marimo Plants, Natural Toys for Betta Fish, Aquarium Safe

 LUFFY Betta Balls: Live Marimo Plants, Natural Toys for Betta Fish, Aquarium Safe

Another product designed to specifically appeal to betta fishes, Luffy’s Betta Balls is a highly-acclaimed amazon best-seller. Sporting a 4.4 out of 5 stars rating, even after a thousand and seven customer reviews, you can be practically assured that you won’t go wrong with investing in this product.

The betta balls are large, between one point six and two inches. They add vibrant color to your tank and they are a great toy to play with for the hyperactive betta fishes, providing them with lots of entertainment. Moreover, they absorb many of the same nutrients algae feeds on, thus preventing any unwanted algae growth in the tank. More entertainment? Check. Better health? Check. Of no less importance is that they require practically no maintenance – all they need is some light, fresh water and something to feed off of. In other words, things you already have in your betta’s tank.

You should keep note, however, that for every $8,95 packet, you will receive only one Luffy Betta Ball. If you want more, you’ll have to buy more packets.

GloFish Aquarium Gravel, 5-Pound GloFish Aquarium Gravel, 5-Pound

The gravel in a tank can be very important. First, it serves as decoration, making your tank look nicer. Secondly, it serves as substrate, if you have underwater plants in your tank. Thirdly, it can be mandatory, if using an UGF, as it is the filter media – the surface area on which bacteria attach. GloFish’s Aquarium Gravel  comes in a five pound bag of various colors, ranging from pink, green and blue fluorescent all the way to solid black – generally speaking, darker gravel better highlights a fish’s colors. It can be used both as substrate and as accent.

You will need approximately one pound a half of gravel per gallon of water your tank has.

Exotic Pebbles: Exotic PMS0510 Polished Gravel, Mixed, 5 Pounds, 3/8-Inch

Exotic PMS0510 Polished Gravel

Exotic Pebble’s brings you another sound choice for polished gravel. These multi-colored stoneware exotic pebbles are a great alternative to mulch, as they are long lasting and will not deteriorate like it. For every purchase you are getting 5 pounds worth of exotic pebbles. They can be used in flower arrangements, walkways, exposed aggregate flooring or walls, around swimming pools and many other areas. As you can tell, this product is very flexible and not strictly made for your aquarium or water tank.

What we really like about it, is that due to its design it will feel really close to a fish’s natural habitat – a really important factor if you’re interested in giving them the best experience possible. Some of the stones will be rough, others will be smoother, just the way they would if you found them outside in nature. You should keep in mind, however, that as these pebbles are larger than the standard gravel you will require appropriate biological filtration.

The product currently holds a 4.3 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon, and is priced at $7.57 per five pounds of pebbles.

Reviewed: New Life Spectrum Hex Shield & Ick Shield

New Life Spectrum arguably makes the highest-quality fish food available and many people know that. What people often don’t know about are their two medicated pellets, Hex Shield & Ick Shield. What do they do? Do they do what they say they do? That and much more in today’s article!

(Disclaimer: Please don’t eat either of these products.)

New Life Spectrum Hex Shield:

NLS Hex Shield is a medicated pellet formulated to combat internal parasites in fish. It also helps relieve bloat caused by overfeeding. Unlike many medicated foods, I find Hex Shield to be readily accepted by numerous types of fish. Personally I’ve had German Blue Rams, Bettas, Killifish and Corydoras Catfish eat it without any intervention from me. I was even able to get my Figure Eight Puffer to eat it, but this required me to shove the pellets inside of a small snail shell. The puffer didn’t spit out the pellets though.


Hex Shield’s natural ingredients are very similar to their other products but there are a few key differences. Fish who are sick typically are less likely to eat or will eat less, so NLS has boosted the concentration of Krill. They also added more garlic, Ginseng, Ginger and Green Onions which not only increase palatability of the food but aid the active ingredients. In addition, they’ve added cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg to balance the taste of the pellet. Sounds yummy, right? Again, please do not eat Hex Shield.

Now, what’s most important are the active ingredients. In Hex Shield the active ingredients are as follows:

Magnesium Sulfate, IH-Imidazole-I-ethanol, 2-methyl-5-nitro-(443-48-1)

This is a veterinary medication that’s designed as an anti-parasitic compound. Not only do these ingredients fight parasites, they also help relieve constipation because Magnesium Sulfate is, in layman’s terms, Epsom salt, which is often used to bathe sick fish in to relieve bloat. As well as to treat more severe illness like dropsy.

Despite what you may think, Hex Shield is very safe to feed your fish. NLS doesn’t officially recommend you use it as a staple food, but they say the safety margin is very high and you can reapply this medication as needed. Another thing to take note of is that because Hex Shield attacks the parasite directly, your fish will not build up a tolerance to it.

You should feed Hex Shield twice per day for three days to achieve best results.

New Life Spectrum Ick Shield:

NLS Ick Shield is a very interesting product, to my knowledge it’s the only ich medication on the market that will actually disrupt the parasite during it’s trophont stage, whilst it’s feeding off of the fish. The active ingredients in Ick Shield are different from Hex Shield but the natural ingredients are essentially the same as Hex Shield so I would imagine that it tastes very similar if not the same to your fish. However, I obviously don’t know this for sure.


Like I mentioned before, Ick Shield and Hex Shield share basically the same ingredients besides the active ingredients which are as follows in Ick Shield:

I,4-Pentanediamine, N4-(7-chloro-4-quinolinyl)-NI,NI-diethyl

Again, this is a mediation designed to disrupt the parasite when it’s under the skin of the fish and inside of the fish’s gills which is when the fish is most vulnerable to the parasite.  It also combats various other ectoparasites like velvet. Personally, I wouldn’t use this by itself because it won’t kill ich that’s free-swimming which is why I feed this as well as dosing the tank with Seachem Paraguard.

When feeding Ick Shield you will want to continue feeding it twice per day for at least 10 days to ensure you eradicate the parasite to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Final Thoughts:

I find both of these medications to be highly effective, however, if you know that you have very finicky fish you may have trouble getting them to accept it. Don’t blame the medication if your fish won’t eat it. How many kids do you know that like the taste of cough syrup? I bet that fish like the taste of these medicated pellets more than young kids like the taste of cough syrup. I also recommend buying these products in advance and giving very small amounts every so often to your fish. This way they’re used to the medication and will be willing to eat it when they actually need it.

If you have any questions, feel free to message me on our Facebook page and I’ll get back to you as fast as I possibly can!

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.