Common Aquarium Keeping Myths
A little thought for readers, since not all myths are addressed here; Besides Social Media and Aquarium forums which drives these myths, often what I have found via many emails and conversations over the years is simply laziness to read good information.
I am not trying to be insulting to readers, as often the myths and miss-information are in simple and easy to read blog, web site, & forum posts. While good scientific based information usually takes much more time to read, often due to the fact it takes multiple readings to understand the information as well.
Often those posting myths also employ methods of attacking the authors of science based information rather than the indisputable subject matter. Examples such as rather than accepting that an inferior LED light wastes more energy as heat, which is a scientific fact, they go after the author or make comments such as this one from Reef Central: "TMC is an obscure brand". Aquarium Chemistry is another subject ripe with myths.
So please read these myths with an open mind and follow the references for a better understanding.
*The Myth that a Multi-Stage RO System WITH a DI Chamber is Required for Most all Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums
*The Myth that that Catastrophic Heater Failure is the Number One Cause Of Aquarium Crashes
*The Myths of Biotope Aquarium/Fish Keeping (Exact Water Parameters)
*The Myth of Betta Tail Biting
*The Myth of an Acrylic Aquarium versus Glass Aquarium
*The Myth of UV Sterilization being only for Aquarium/Pond Clarification
*The Myth of PAR as a definitive measurement of LED Light energy for planted or reef aquariums
*The Myth of using Community Driven Reviews as a way to determine product quality
The Myth that Multi-Stage RO System WITH a DI Chamber is Required for Most all Freshwater and Saltwater Aquariums.
In my experience, this was another myth that was de-bunked long ago (as per my discussions with others such as researchers from Aquatronics), but has resurfaced because social media and dare I say, many persons inability to think on their own.
I do not know where it started, my guess is a popular online discount reef supply retailer. However regardless, online personalities with lack of history and/or experience such as Mr. Saltwater tank took the lure and swam with it!
In my opinion, this myth has become the most successful aquarium keeping myths in my career based on the sheer volume of persons who have bought into it, especially considering it was debunked long ago (not to mention common logic being thrown under the bus in falling for this myth).
Without going into detail, all a DI chamber is going to do for ones water over an effective, well made RO only system is to remove all ions and lower TDS slightly.
For a car battery, this would be important, as we certainly want neutral electrically charged (ion neutral) water, but for a saltwater tank that has a pH of 8.2, why would anyone care that the RO water might have a pH above 7.0?
Even for a planted freshwater tank, any water coming from a good RO system that has say a pH of say 7.8, there is no alkaline buffer to back this up and the pH is quickly neutralized by any acids present.
It is also noteworthy that if you do not add electrolytes back into our RO/DI aquarium water, you can can have a dangerously poor aquarium Redox since aquarium water needs to have some ionic charge.
Reference: Aquarium Redox
As for TDS, basically the same thing applies, a small TDS reading is not going to cause ANY issues with either your fresh or saltwater aquarium.
Years of observations and use by me & others bears this out! Some say by controlling TDS or having a DI module, your nitrates coming out of the system are guaranteed neutral. Well my answer is, I ALWAYS had ZERO nitrate readings with properly maintained and well built RO systems.
Personally, my view is the reason these got marketed in the first place (besides more equipment to sell and resins for DI to purchase later), is that the cheaper RO systems being used by these persons did not have zero nitrate readings.
For those who ask to prove my point, well the burden of proof is these persons telling others they need to purchase questionable additional equipment to show how a marginal amount higher TDS makes a difference in either marine or planted tanks since these persons are the ones promoting this often fictitious need.
Then these promoters need to explain how 0 nitrates and 0 phosphates from a well designed RO system are any worse than a more expensive to maintain combination RO/DI system also with 0 nitrates and 0 phosphates?? What is the difference of 0 from 0, come on people!! THE SCIENCE DOES NOT LIE!
The next question based on the fact an DI chamber will do just as the name implies; remove "ions", how is it that a pH of 7.8 out of an RO only for a marine make any difference over a pH of 7.0 from an RO/DI or DI only (or even planted freshwater aquarium, since there would be no buffers after the RO process to maintain this pH and the pH would fall immediately once exposed to acids or cO2).
My four decades in the hobby and history in speaking to many leaders long before the "cut and paste" world of the internet speak for itself for those refusing to use common sense with this myth, but mentoring and respect for others who have extensive experience in this hobby along with mentoring has gone the way of the Dodo bird in many aquarium keeping circles.
In calling out this myth, unfortunately even forums and admins therein have bought into this and have made personal logical fallacy/inflammatory remarks as to my work or those who have simply exercised common sense in supporting my work in the hobby/industry (an unfortunate example has been PNWMAS who has an unfortunate history of attacks upon my work).
Really, in the end, the only reason to spend your money on an RO/DI system is because your home or office is run on a whole house/office water softener that adds sodium ions to the water that would throw everything else out of balance.
Honestly, and sorry to be so blunt, if a person still believes this myth, this person has bought into one of the biggest myths in the history of aquarium keeping.
As well if these same persons want to believe this just because several popular aquarium keepers also believe it, go right ahead and also if these same persons tell you to jump off a cliff, do not say I did not warn you.
Strongly Suggested Further Reading:
Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums
The Myth that that Catastrophic Heater Failure is the Number One Cause Of Aquarium Crashes.
While for some this might be true, but I have to ask is this a case of heater failure or poor planning?
I have kept 1000s of aquariums in my professional aquarium maintenance and design company (100+ at the Bahooka Restaurant alone) and I can think of only a couple where catastrophic caused a total aquarium crash. Speaking of the Bahooka, I had a very large Pacu once bite through a heater, both frying himself and the tank, but I am sorry this does not count IMO.
Generally when a heater fails it simply stops working, this goes for the better heaters such as the Ebo Jager or Via Aqua.
The problem with this myth is that many do not properly utilize heaters.
While over heating failures are less common, even these rarely cause catastrophic results if used properly. If you place a 300 watt heater in a 10 gallon aquarium and it over heats, the chances are the results will be catastrophic! But then why are you placing this size heater in this size aquarium.
Often what I have heard is the store or website said to and stated the more watts the better. Unfortunately proper matching of wattage, tank size and ambient room temperature prevents this in most all cases! At worse in most cases is you will have a very warm tank!!!
With large tanks, what I usually have done is two or more heaters adding up to this ambient temperature, aquarium size, heater wattage formula, which further prevents this issue.
Sadly this rumor seems to trace back to the same online retailer of bulk aquarium supplies as the DI myth!!
Further Reading (including heater/aquarium matching formula):
Aquarium Heaters; Review, Size, Heater Information
The Myths of Biotope Aquarium/Fish Keeping (Exact Water Parameters).
Many fish keepers wanting to keep the best habitat for their finned pets often will get hung up on attempting to keep exact conditions to their fish' native habitat. What is not realized is that in an aquarium, which is a CLOSED system, it is generally impossible.
Just as important, often keeping the exact conditions does not guarantee a long lifespan, in fact quite the opposite often turns out to be the case.
For instance even though a Betta can get oxygen from surfacing to the top of the tank for some air, this does not mean the optimum environment is a small bowl without any circulation or filtration. This is simply an adaptation that allows the Betta in the wild to survive harsh changes between monsoon and drought.
An example elsewhere in the animal kingdom is the wolf. The wolf is well adapted for the hash conditions they live in, HOWEVER the wolf generally only lives 3-4 years in the wild while living 14 years in captivity.
The other part of this myth that is even more misunderstood is the water parameters of pH, KH, and especially GH.Many aquarium keepers will knowingly remove different minerals that make up GH believing that a GH over 100 ppm is bad for certain fish such as Discus when there is NO EVIDENCE to support this, other than the GH of the Amazon.
HOWEVER, the Amazon is an "open system", so while the GH is low, there are still ESSENTIAL mineral Cations, just in a very diluted high tannin water!
BETTER would be to still add back the tannins, and still add a small, but constant source of mineral Cations, even if this means a GH of 300 ppm as this will NOT harm your Discus or similar biotope water fish!!
While anecdotal, I can note that in my four decades of fish keeping, literally 1000s of clients aquariums, I have had many mixed community aquariums where-by I have kept many South American "soft water" biotope fish along with fish such as Tanganyikan Cichlids in water with high pH, GH, and KH.
The fish thrived assuming I kept the aquarium properly filtered (generally including UV Sterilization), with otherwise good nitrogen cycle parameters, and a balanced Redox.
In summary, just because a fish in the wild live in certain conditions, it doesn't mean we have to create the same conditions in our aquariums. Fish we keep in our tanks a generally breed in aquariums and are used to many different types of conditions. Fish, just like humans, can adapt to different conditions. This simply means, having a proper GH, with a good pH and KH will be some of the best conditions we can make for a fish in a aquarium. Trying to keep water parameters just like where the fish is 'from', doesn't ensure a long thriving life for the fish. Highly recommended science based reading:
*Aquarium Chemistry; GH Section *Aquarium Redox
The Myth of Betta Tail Biting.
While I cannot be 100% conclusive that this is a myth; all scientific based research (including scouring the Internet for even just one conclusive picture), as well as years of experience keeping 100s of Bettas point to this being a myth at the very least 99% of the time.
This seems to have sprung from popular Betta keeping forums, just as the made up (myth) of s fish disease: "Red Pest". Unfortunately just as in "Red Pest", this myth has grown wings in re-post after re-post to the point many now believe this actually happens when in reality there are better explanations for the damaged tail or behavior Betta keepers think they are observing.
Further Reference for "Red Pest":
Red Pest, Invented Fish Disease, Actually Septicemia
For starters, biting of ones self when it has some sort of irritation (itch, etc.) is a warm blooded animal phenomenon. You will not see a lizard, fish, etc. biting itself. Rather you will see these animals scratching against a rock or similar sue to irritations. This is more commonly known as "flashing".
However, it is quite common for a bird or dog to literally decimate themselves over irritations.
Warm-Blooded vs. Cold-Blooded
Most likely the damage observed is due to poor water parameters & care, or damage from decor such as rocks. This is especially true when a current is strong and/or the fish is weak.
Here are a few recommended resources, the first is a MUST READ where following each point is a must (or at least as many points as possible). The second is just some basics to Betta care:
*A Healthy Aquarium, Disease Prevention
*Betta Profiles, Care
Often what persons have described in videos is actually a healthy Bettas showing aggression toward itself, not tail biting as none of these videos have yet to show actual biting.
Here is one such video example (that claims tail biting, but does not show tail biting, rather just common Betta aggression):
YouTube; Betta fish tail biting
The Myth of an Acrylic Aquarium versus Glass Aquarium.
I have read and had emails from people who believe that an acrylic aquarium is the safe/better choice for any aquarium. This is simply not true when the facts of manufacturer, construction, and experience are factored in.
Yes, maybe for a very large aquarium such as one over 250 gallons the acrylic is the better choice, especially when weight and off site construction are considered. For the average aquarium, especially those 75 gallons or less this is factually false.
Let me address the facts and why some might come to this false conclusion:
- Acrylic is more flexible, thus allowing for better expansion of the aquarium once filled. This might be partly true, however for the average aquarium, if constructed is properly made out of float glass, there is ample flexibility.
HOWEVER, many builders of aquariums have cheapened their product by using tempered glass in all or part of the aquarium.
The facts are, while tempered glass might be great for automotive wind shields, it's terrible for aquariums due to its brittle nature and inability to stretch.
So, if you are thinking of purchasing one of these tempered glass aquariums, acrylic would be the better choice. If your choice is between a properly constructed glass aquarium made out of float glass and acrylic, a glass aquarium has all the flexibility needed when proper thickness and bracing is provided.
- Acrylic is less likely to have a major water leak.
In both my experience with 1000s of aquariums and with the knowledge of construction methods, this is simply NOT TRUE!
Small leaks in the seams and tops of glass aquariums are again often due to poor construction or poor silicone choices used are definitely more common in glass tanks.
HOWEVER, when it comes to catastrophic "explosions" of the aquarium, acrylic aquariums win hands down as per being the higher risk. This is based on hard numbers when one compares the number of acrylic aquariums I have kept versus the actual catastrophic leak events.
Just as importantly, an explanation is generally forth coming and that's often because many acrylic aquariums do not use enough cement and do not properly clamp the aquarium during construction and this results in the glue not properly "melting" the acrylic panels together. This allows for a potential sudden separation of the panels some day.
- Acrylic is stronger than glass.
Pound per pound, kilogram per kilogram this might be true, but when one uses the correct glass thickness compared to the correct acrylic thickness, the glass aquarium constructed out of float glass does just fine.
Now if you plan to play baseball near your aquarium, then I might suggest the acrylic aquarium, but for normal aquarium placement, this is not a factor for aquariums under 250 pounds.
As a side note, with the correct silicone use, a safe well constructed aquarium up to 750 gallons can be built. So make sure you do not use these cheap hardware store brands that are not specifically designed for aquarium construction.
*Aquarium Silicone, Tank Repair, Applications, DIY, How To Use
Aquarium Construction Grade Product Resource:
*American Aquarium; Fish Safe Construction Grade Silicone
- Acrylic is more flexible, thus allowing for better expansion of the aquarium once filled. This might be partly true, however for the average aquarium, if constructed is properly made out of float glass, there is ample flexibility.
The Myth of UV Sterilization being only for Aquarium/Pond Clarification.
Even though disproved years ago via controlled tests that involved fish longevity and incidence of disease as well as UV Sterilizations affect on Redox, this myth still persists in certain aquarium keeping circles.Below is are some pictures that demonstrate the abilities of level one UV sterilization on oxidizers (Redox) in an aquarium. Since these oxidizers are harmful to long and even short term fish health, this is further simple visual evidence to disprove this dishonest myth.
This myth has been helped by the flood of cheap Chinese UV sterilizers, such as the Green Killing Machine that are often marketed as UV sterilizers when in reality these are only clarifiers. People will purchase these cheap UVs and then find no help other than clarification and then continue to spread the myth.
BTW, this is not to say all Chinese made UVs are only clarifiers, but that most of those sold on Amazon or elsewhere for under $50 simply cannot even afford to use the correct low pressure UV bulb and instead utilize the cheap medium pressure UV bulbs that have flooded the market, and are really only meant for nail curing.
This also is not to say that the Green Killing Machine does not do a good job with clarification; HOWEVER many less than knowledgeable retailers often market this product as a true level one capable UV Sterilizer when it is not.
As well, one aquarium supply website in particular markets all sorts of submersible and HOB UVs as sterilizers when the facts and science of level one UVC sterilization show these to be clarifiers AT BEST!
The result is persons purchasing these products and observing no differences other than clarification and then going into anecdotal forums such as PNWMAS or FishLore and stating that ANY UV sterilizer is only good for clarification. This is bad misinformation at its worse. To understand more about what true level one or even level two sterilization an and cannot do, I strongly suggest reading the following article:
UV Sterilization for Aquarium or Pond; Facts & Information
The aquarium on the right utilizes a level one UV Sterilizer while the one on the left does not. Clarification of an oxidizer (Potassium Permanganate) is more quickly removed by the aquarium with the UV Sterilizer.
Courtesy the above cited article about UV Sterilization
The Myth of PAR as a definitive measurement of LED Light energy for planted or reef aquariums.
This is another myth spread by forums and blogs where I will not judge the intentions, but it's clear that giving just part of the facts (PAR), these forums and blogs are misleading via omission of key facts.
A good example is a popular blog author who also speaks in many reef keeping conventions and forums.
This marketing professional (Ph.D in Marketing) makes some eye catching graphs that really promote certain LED lights such as the EcoTech over others. YET he completely skips over the lighting parameter of PUR (Photosynthetically Useful Radiation).
This in my opinion is very misleading, whether by intention or not.
This individual makes neat maps for many of the popular LED Lights, but obviously skips over the industry leader in PUR (TMC AquaRay LEDs) in his published data and articles.
Sadly, heat is a symptom of a light that is wasting energy, since heat is energy wasted not going to produce light. This is typical with high PAR, but lower PUR lights and a symptom is also the need for cooling fans.
The scientific FACTS are that one could have a LED light with a much higher PAR than another, yet be considerable inferior in actually useful light energy produced that a coral or plant requires.
An extreme example would be it you made a LED fixture with nothing but green and UVA emitters while making a balanced PUR fixture that hits all the important PUR efficiency wave light lengths.
Since the green emitter are at most 70% efficient and as little as 20% efficient and little of the UVA is useful PUR energy, but if this light had say 120 watts versus the balanced LED fixture at 30 watts input energy, the LED fixture of 120 watts using green/UVA emitters would be judged superior based on these often absurd graphs published by this individual then copied all over the Internet in forums, etc. when in REALITY, this fictitious 120 watt fixture would actually be much less useful in light energy provided!!
Some Recommended Reading on this subject:
*PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED)
*Aquarium Lighting; Complete Information
*EcoTech Radion Versus TMC Aqua Ray HO LED Aquarium Lights *PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
The Myth of using Community Driven Reviews as a way to determine product quality.
To use such reviews to base your fish care decisions is pure folly, but unfortunately with the explosion of social media and even search engines using social media to drive their results has paced even more emphasis on this folly than ever.
A few examples:
- A common review is for UV Clarifiers masquerading as UV Sterilizers. With many discounters, a way to keep these cheap is to use medium pressure UV Bulbs that only produce 7-14% useful UVC irradiation versus a low pressure UV bulb that produces 35% or more UVC irradiation. The use of the medium pressure bulb/lamp saves a lot of money, but also makes the UV equipment a clarifier at best and even then not very good.
YET, I see many great reviews for such products on Amazon and elsewhere where also these reviews o not take into consideration long term use where by many of these products have poor longevity due to poor seals, design, parts, etc.
Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond
- Many products are sold at discounters with missing, but required parts to keep the price low such as pre-filters for UV Sterilizers which increases turbidity and thus lowers effectiveness. Another example is pre-filter required for optimum operation of the Rena Smart Filter. This often results in negative reviews when in fact the user never had tho correct parts and were doomed to failure from the start.
- Reviews based on "my fish like it" or everyone else uses it too and likes the product.
This is terrible reasoning!! Science is NOT A VOTE!!!
If one product has superior ingredients based on known science or has a better order of ingredients, this product is likely the better product regardless of positive reviews. Worse are products that make claims that sound great, but refuse to list ingredients; these products should always be avoided regardless of positive reviews as again this is not sound science!!
- The simple fact that most reviews are by persons with few credential to make such reviews.
I am sorry, keeping a 20 gallon aquarium for the last 5 years does not make one an expert on why one filter is better than another versus controlled side by side testing using multiple aquariums with all other parameters including bio load and feeding being the same.
Would you trust a review of an MRI machine (magnetic resonance imaging) by patient who has had a few diagnostic images performed in one or an informational blog or website by a technician who uses these day in and day out???
Unfortunately we live in a society more and more driven by "feelings" and social media as well as self appointed experts (this is common in YouTube), but this is not science and should not be used to determine what is best for your finned pets!!
- In addition, here is a real world example of how user reviews are being used in Amazon.com for the Current Satellite LED. The referenced article below explains the pros and cons of Amazon user reviews. While these reviews have there place, they are still lacking in knowing peoples experience with the product or even how involved someone is in the hobby. This article explains these reviews should be only one part in researching aquarium topics.
Amazon User Reviews for Aquariums
- A common review is for UV Clarifiers masquerading as UV Sterilizers. With many discounters, a way to keep these cheap is to use medium pressure UV Bulbs that only produce 7-14% useful UVC irradiation versus a low pressure UV bulb that produces 35% or more UVC irradiation. The use of the medium pressure bulb/lamp saves a lot of money, but also makes the UV equipment a clarifier at best and even then not very good. YET, I see many great reviews for such products on Amazon and elsewhere where also these reviews o not take into consideration long term use where by many of these products have poor longevity due to poor seals, design, parts, etc. Further Reference:
Recommended Aquatic Sites for Information, Products
Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting
By TMC AquaRay, the TRUE leader in aquarium LED Lighting
AcroPower Amino Acids for SPS Corals
Two Little Fishies new formula AcroPower supplies essential amino acids that corals need to build their skeletal architecture
UV Replacement Lamps; Aquarium or Pond
For TRUE High Output, Hot Cathode, Low Pressure UVC Germicidal Bulbs, for aquarium or pond
ZetLight (manufacturer of Maspect) & TMC AquaBar LED Lights
Full featured ZetLights, while not the level of the high PUR TMC AquaBeam are an alternative to other popular full feature (but lower PUR) LEDs such as the EcoTech, Aqua Illuminations, & others.
The TMC AquaBar is a better lower cost alternative to the Finnex and Fluval freshwater LED lights.
Aquarium Light Information, Help
The most in depth and regularly updated article available FREE on the Internet!
Aquarium UV Sterilization; Complete Sterilizer Use Information
TMC Premium Fluidized Sand Bed Bio Filters
Premium, second to NONE Aquarium Bio Filters, that with Oolitic Sand also maintain essential marine aquarium calcium levels, alkalinity, & electrolytes that are important to ALL Marine life, Goldfish, African Cichlids, Livebearers & more
San Francisco Bay Brand Seaweed Salad
"Seaweed Salad" is much more nutritious than spinach and lettuce. This product is recommended for all saltwater Damsels, Clownfish, and especially Marine Angels and Tangs
NilocG High Growth Liquid Plant Ferts
NilocG Aquatics PROFESSIONAL GRADE planted aquarium liquid fertilizer products. Products designed for persons who want to have a more advanced planted aquarium without the hassles need for a degree in science to do so. Meant for use in "The Estimative Index of Dosing, or No Need for Test Kits" method of planted aquarium aquascaping. Products work for both low light and high light planted aquariums, just different dosages.
Copyright; Steven Wright & Carl Strohmeyer