The Aquatic Gazette

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

GEX Slim Filter S

In Filtration on June 26, 2011 at 15:04

We are on a filter roll here, with the GEX Slim S being the third filter to be reviewed in a week. As mentioned in the GEX Roka Boy articles, we have been impressed with the build quality and design of the GEX air-powered filters. Thus, we decided to review another GEX product that is appealing to some aquarists, by being the slimmest hang on filter in the market today.

The GEX company should be credited for having the guts to redesign the hang on filter at such a fundamental level. Other aquarium companies have differentiated their hang on filters by changing the filter media options, but no company has taken the established hang on filter design and brought it back to the drawing board.

The GEX Slim S breaks the look of the traditional hang on filter by positioning the filter pump outside the filter’s body. By doing so, the filter body can now be slimmer than usual as it does not have to have a body big enough to house a pump. In the image below, the diagram shows how GEX has accomplished this.

The GEX Slim S is really a slim filter measuring 180mm in length, 152mm in height and just 50mm across.

Here, GEX waste no effort in emphasizing how slim their filter is, compared to other competing brands.

The build quality of the GEX Slim S is of the same high quality found in all their other products. The plastics used are strong, without flex, and all parts are machined nicely. We especially liked the ‘metal’ feel that GEX gave the top cover of the filter, adding a touch of class.

The GEX Slim S is slimmer in width compared to other hang on filters, but it’s longer in length. This longer length allows it to compensate for its small width and still pack enough filter media to be effective.

For the GEX Slim filters to be effective, water must be directed in a way that it passes through all the filter media along the length of the filter before returning to the aquarium. Based on the internal design of the GEX Slim S filter body, we can see that GEX has planned it to be so. However, the second cartridge that is further from the intake will not see as much flow going through it as the first cartridge. In a Slim S body with just two cartridges, this will be a minor problem and there should not be any penalty to filtration effectiveness.

In is heartening to know that in the bigger Slim bodies, GEX has appropriately position the outlet sprout closer to the filter cartridges that are furtherest from the intake. This will force water to also flow through the outlying cartridges before exiting the filter.

The filter cartridges that GEX provides with every GEX Slim filter, is enough for that filter’s operation. For the GEX Slim S, it comes with two filter cartridges.

The filter cartridges has words in Japanese and we could not guess the functions of the different cartridges as they also look exactly the same. On the packaging’s picture, they are placed in the same position.

The only difference we can spot was one had the words “2 in 1” and the other had the words “3 in 1”. In filtration speak, these numbers can only mean the three means of filtration; mechanical, biological and chemical. The “2 in 1” media should encompass biological and chemical filtration while the “3 in 1” media should encompass mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.

We hope to get the Japanese words translated and will update this article accordingly if we manage to.

The motor of the GEX Slim S is positioned outside the filter body. As seen in the picture below, water is sucked into an intake that is covered by a black sponge, it then passes through the motor and flow into the filter by the intake tube. This tube is also adjustable in length.

One slight disappointment of ours was that the plastic used to make the intake tube is not of the same great material that makes the filter body. Its slightly darker and softer, and flexes a little. But there may be a use of such a softer plastic for the intake tube. Our guess is so that the ability to extend the intake tube can be housed within the tube itself, and not fixed- on extensions that other filters employ.

For aquascapers, the extra bulk of a motor in the aquascape may not be welcomed unless flora can be used to hide it.

If you have been wondering why we have not mentioned the flow rate of this filter, it is because we cannot find any mention of one. GEX’s official website is in Japanese and we tried to track down any flow rate information for the GEX Slim S but found none.

The only information we have is that the GEX Slim S is recommended for aquarium of about 25 litres. Unlike Eheim’s more optimistic view on filter to aquarium size ratio, GEX’s recommendation of pairing the Slim S to an aquarium of approximately 25 litres is pretty accurate.

Not everyone will be pleased with the dependency of the GEX Slim S on GEX filter cartridges. Using third party filter media is possible but may not be as effective as compared to using them on traditional sized hang on filters, as the slim and long body of the GEX Slim S may impede their filtration effectiveness.

For aquarists who have aquariums on their desks, the GEX Slim S is a good choice as it saves precious desk space as these aquarists can have the aquariums closer to the wall.

GEX has proven to be a company that produces aquatic products that work, with a solid build quality and attractive design. Till date, aquarists on various aquatic forums have given the GEX Slim filters good reviews, saying that it works as well as the usual hang on filters.

If you are in the market for a small hang on filter that is slim, do check out the GEX Slim S.



GEX Roka Boy Comparison

In Filtration on June 24, 2011 at 03:45

About two weeks ago, we reviewed the GEX Roka Boy Compact after a reader wrote to us about reviewing an air-powered filter. We were pretty impressed by the Gex Roka Boy Compact which was a great filter designed into a very small package, and decided to bring in the Gex Roka Boy S and Gex Roka Boy M and do a comparison of all three.

There will quite a number of aquarists who will require a conventionally sized air-powered filter and we hope that this comparison will provide a guide to the different sizes. As the S & M are very similar to the Compact in terms of design and operation, we will not be going too much into the details. For a detailed review, please follow this link:

The boxes of the S & M spots the same appealing design that is usually typical of Japanese aquarium companies. The diagrams on the boxes clearly illustrates the filter that you will be purchasing and the functions that it performs.

However, the S & M do not carry any English translation for their diagrams while the Compact does. We found that puzzling as the lack of space cannot be an issue when the Compact manages to squeeze these translations in. One reason for this lack may be because the S & M were not meant for our local market but for the Japanese market instead.

Unlike the Compact, the S & M does not come with a separate biological sponge. Instead, their biological sponge is packed with activated carbon and it will require replacing every month or so to ensure optimal chemical filtration effectiveness.

Frequently changing the biological sponge just to ensure chemical filtration effectiveness does present its own problem. The new biological sponge will have to start the colonization of beneficial bacteria all over again and this will affect total filtration effectiveness.

When we used the S for one of our aquariums, we prefer to let the activated carbon run its course and then to depend on the biological sponge for the long run.

The S & M are made of the same good quality plastic that the Compact is made of. The plastics are solid and clear, machined properly, with the different parts fitting nicely. The plastic clamps that hold the filter together are sturdy and we don’t foresee any problems with them breaking as sometimes seen in other such filters.

Unlike the Compact which is made out of three parts, the S & M are made out of four parts and we are glad for it. As seen below, the filters can be dismantled quite throughly and this makes for easy washing and maintenance.

The M is quite a beast beside the Compact. We didn’t managed to get a GEX Roka Boy L, but we can imagine that it will be much bigger and more impressive in size difference.

Here is the M beside the Compact.

The GEX Roka Boy S & M are similar to the GEX Roka Boy Compact and we have no doubts that they will make good air-powered filters. The only disappointment is that there is no way to change the activated carbon in the S & M filters without throwing out the biological sponge as well. If GEX could split the sponges like in the Compact, that would be great.


Eheim Pickup 2006

In Filtration on June 22, 2011 at 16:36

The Eheim 2006 is not only the smallest filter in Eheim’s Pickup line, it is also the smallest internal filter by Eheim.

Technical Specifications:

Model: Eheim Pickup 2006
Approximate Maximum Aquarium Size: 45 litres
Approximate Pump Output: 50 to 180 litres per hour
Approximate Filter Volume: 58 litres
Power Consumption: 3.5 watts
Dimensions: 135mm x 50mm x 63mm

Using the electrical head as a guide, you will realise how small this filter is

The petite size of the Eheim 2006, with its ability to reduce flow rate to a slow 50 litres per hour, makes it the perfect filter for a nano tank. We have been using the filter on our 6 litre betta tank and it has been great, being small enough to be hidden behind some Java fern and gentle enough in flow to not disturb our betta.

Eheim coined the name ‘pickup’ because the filter media and the body that houses it, can be picked up during maintenance without having to detach the suction cups from the aquarium. This allows for a trouble free and fast maintenance which takes about a minute or less.

These suction cups are strong

There is a sense of joy when holding such a small filter that has been designed and executed properly, in a quality manner. The Eheim 2006 is of the usual excellent build quality that Eheim is known for. All parts fit exactly and nicely, plastics are solid and without flex. The flow switch at the filter head turns smoothly and the suction cups are strong. Overall, the Eheim 2006 is the standard that all nano internal filters should look up to.

The vast majority of consumers that purchase the Eheim 2006 will have done so because their for an appropriate filter for their small tank. In a tank of this size, a successful internal filter will need to address three concerns, flow output, filtration media effectiveness and physical size.

The outflow of water can be directed with the turning of the filter head

The filter head of the Eheim 2006 has a switch that allows for the adjustment of outflow from a range of 50 litres per hour to 180 litres per hour. If 50 litres per hour is still too strong for the aquarium, the filter head can be turned to direct the outflow towards the side of the aquarium, weakening the flow further.

As an example of using the Eheim 2006 in a nano tank with a flow senstive fauna, our betta did not have any issues with the minimum flow and there was no need to direct the outflow towards the side of the aquarium. The minimum flow of 50 litres per hour was perfect for our 6 litre tank.

Underneath the filter head | Maximum flow

Underneath the filter head | Minimum flow

The cream coloured filter sponge that comes equipped with the Eheim 2006 is of a good quality and it spots a compact grid. Our first contact with it makes us wish that the Eheim Liberty’s default blue sponge was made with this same sponge.

This filter sponge is surprisingly compact in grid and that makes for a good biological media as more space can be found for beneficial bacteria to established itself. However, the lack of a mechanical filtration media in the Eheim 2006 will mean that a monthly light washing of this sponge is a must, with more frequent washing if your tank has a high biological load. This washing is to prevent excessive detritus from building up on the front surface of the sponge as this will reduce the filter’s effectiveness.

To find out how often the filter sponge needs maintenance, observe the flow rate and when it drops, it will be time to carry out a washing. Besides watching the flow rate, the clear body of the filter also allows a visual check on the detritus build up on the filter sponge. If you observe a thick build up, it may be also time to perform wash.

Cream coloured filter sponge | Compact and of a good material | Should make a great biological bacteria media

Close up

Filter sponge in filter body | The gap found between the sponge and body is where water flows into the sponge

The bottom of the body | Impeller

The hole is where the impeller sits | The vents are where water flows through to enter the filter

Besides the excellently designed filter head, the compact and good quality filter sponge, the diminutive size of the Eheim 2006 is its greatest strength. In our 6 litres betta tank, the filter is well hidden by some Java fern and never once seem to be too big for it. Unlike another of Eheim’s internal filter, the Aqua Ball, we prefer the rectangular frame of the Eheim 2006 as it blends better into the corner of the aquarium and it can be easily maintained with its ‘pick up’ ability.

At this point of writing, Eheim is no longer sending new stocks of the Eheim 2006 into Singapore, what is sold in the local fish shops are from existing inventory. We do not have any idea if Eheim intends to restart production of the Eheim 2006, but we hope they will, as they did for the Eheim Classic 2211.

It will be a shame if the Eheim 2006 is allowed to fade away as there is nothing in the market that is its replacement for being a small filter of such quality. For all nano tank owners who want an internal filter, we highly recommend the Eheim 2006, in fact, we are going to stock up some just for our nano tanks which we will be featuring some time in the future.

Side profile | The most likely view in the aquarium


Technical credit: Eheim Asia Pacific

Betta Splendens

In Fauna on June 20, 2011 at 23:38

Visually striking, attractive, hardy and requiring not a great deal of space, the Betta Splendens is a fauna with a lot to give in return for little. In this article, we will take an in depth look at this splendid fauna and the requirements for its good health.

A normal B. Splendens will grow to about 5cm in length with giants growing easily to more than 14cm. They are available in a myriad of colours and in almost every combination imaginable, all a result of many years of selective breeding by dedicated breeders.

The B. Splendens today is a far cry from its ancestors in the wild. The wild betta is almost of a dull brown or green colour and has fins that are much smaller. This is in stark comparison to the B. Splendens we find in our local fish shops that boast splendid colours and amazing fins. The dull colouration and more practical fins of the wild betta are thus more suited for survival in the wild, than the commercially bred B. Splendens.

The wild betta was first kept by the people of Siam in the 19th century. Because of its aggressive nature, they named it “pal kat” which means biting fish. Today, this name is still used for one of the varieties of the B. Splendens. By the mid 19th centuries, matches between these bettas were extremely popular in Siam.

Like its ancestors, the B. Splendens is an extremely territorial and tenacious fauna, attacking another male of its kind without any hesitation. Because of this trait, all males are to be kept by themselves and selective tank mates may be possible. Females can be kept together as they are not as aggressive as males, however, a hierarchy of sorts will be established and minor fights are common.

In nature, the wild betta hails from still waters that are often oxygen deprived. Because of this, the B. Splendens has a labyrinth, a unique organ that allows it to respirate oxygen directly from air. This labyrinth allows the oxygen to be absorbed into the B. Splendens’ bloodstream and this important ability allows the B. Splendens to survive in environments that other fauna will perish in.

Besides a low oxygen environment, the wild betta also has to live with less than ideal water conditions, because of decaying leaf litter coupled with slow water flow. The adaptation of this environment has enabled the wild betta to have a higher tolerance to poor water condition, compared to other fauna that are more used to pristine water conditions.

Because of the hardiness of their wild ancestors, the B. Splendens has the ability to cope in aquarium conditions that are less than ideal. However, their hardiness level is not of the same as the wild betta as multiple generations of breeding in pristine aquarium conditions have eroded that. We would recommend that the B. Splendens be treated like any other fauna, requiring a proper aquarium size with a filter.

The B. Splendens does best in its own aquarium. As mentioned earlier, tank mates are possible, but a trial and error process will have to take place which may result in the injury or death of potential tank mates. It has been known for some B. Splendens to be able to share their aquarium with almost any fauna, exhibiting an uncommon peaceful attitude with them, while other B. Splendens have attacked anything that is placed in their aquarium. The B. Splendens is a fauna with a bucket full of character and how acceptable they are to tank mates will be highly dependent on their character.

In our local fish shops, it is very common to find B. Splendens in bags with as little as 150ml of water for days on end. Although the B. Splendens is able to survive in such bags, it is cruel as these bags do not get a water change and the B. Splendens will die either from the lack of food or from their increasingly poisoned environment.

Although the eventually suffer in such tiny amounts of water, many local fish shops and aquarists continue to keep them in very small tanks. We do not recommend such tanks and to properly care for a B. Splendens, it needs about 5 litres to 10 litres of water equipped with a filter. A smaller filterless aquarium is possible, but with very regular water changes.

A B. Splendens needs a good feed to reach its potential, being both strong and beautiful. A good feed like Hikari Betta Bio Gold or Atison’s Betta Pro will go a long way in the B. Splendens’ well being.

The B. Splendens have a cult following in some countries and it is not unusual for these hobbyists to have tens to a few hundred B. Splendens under their care. In such an set up, the B. Splendens are usually kept in clear plastic or glass containers of about a litre or so of water. The B. Splendens live in an ’empty’ environment, devoid of aquascape as this helps the hobbyist to quickly perform regular water changes, maintaining the water quality.

However, if you are not at such a level and only have one or two B. Splendens, we highly recommend an aquascape for this intelligent fauna. We have observed numerous B. Splendens that interact intimately with the aquascape, sleeping among flora, resting on them or hiding in them. One of our favourite B. Splendens has a particular habit of hiding the lower half of its body among the leaves of a anubias nana when it’s feeding time, allowing the food pellets to float around for a few seconds before launching violently from his ‘hiding’ place to attack his food. Extremely cute fellow.

The B. Splendens is a favourite among many aquarists for its keen intelligence, hardy constitution and ability to live in an aquarium without a filter or aeration. If you have not tried keeping one of these beauties before, we highly recommend you give it a go.


image credits: Tzara Maud | Chantal Wagner

ADA Products How-To Series | Episode 2

In Film on June 18, 2011 at 17:43

In this second episode, Aquarium Design Group addresses water water changes, doses Green Bacter, Brighty K (potassium supplement), trims the hairgrass, adds Amano shrimps and O-cats, and cleans the Pollen Glass 3 diffuser and Lily Pipes.

Enjoy this second episode!


video credits: Aquarium Design Group | ADGVibe

Aquascape | Riparium Style

In Aquascape Series on June 17, 2011 at 04:55

The Dutch style and Nature Aquarium style covers almost every aspect of aquascaping today that it is difficult for any new style to emerge. However in recent years, the Riparium style has started to gain momentum and recognition, due in no small part to the efforts of its founder, Devin Biggs. Today, Riparium Supply, a company that Devin Biggs helms, champions the Riparium style through publications, hardware and support.

The Riparium concept was developed when Devin Biggs was living in Jalisco, Mexico. During his time there, he visited nearby river habitats and was inspired to recreate a tiny section of a river with native flora and fauna. While investigating these native flora, he discovered that many of them grew as emergents and used these native flora for his first Riparium aquascape. It was in this aquascape, that he realized he could keep the emergent flora growing at the water line by using small plastic rafts that he made out of plastic vanilla extract bottles.

The concept behind the Riparium style is to recreate the wet habitats and ecosystems that are found at the banks of rivers, lakes and streams. In this habitat, marginal plants have their roots within an aquatic environment but grow their leaves outside of it.

To replicate this habitat in an aquarium, the Riparium style usually does not fill the aquarium full of water but leaves a significant amount of space empty. This amount of space will vary with the type of marginal flora that is found in a specific Riparium aquascape. In some cases, the aquascape chosen will require a tank full of water, but the majority of Riparium aquascape are found with water that is lesser than the Dutch or Nature Aquarium styles.

Today, Riparium Supply retails hanging and floating planters that are essential to creating a Riparium aquascape. Marginal flora grows on these planters and they can easily be moved and repositioned, allowing a form of flexibility not available in the Dutch or Nature Aquarium styles. Over time, flora that have been planted in these planters will cover them and thus obstructing them from view, allowing the aquascape to be the sole focus.

Naturally, the best flora for the Riparium style are those that are found in a similar environment in the wild. One great appeal of the style is the flowering of marginal flora, which results in a highly attractive and eye catching aquascape. This blooming of flora is something that is not often seen in the Dutch or Nature Aquarium styles.

Marginal flora can provide substantial amounts of shade and shelter in a Riparium aquascape if the right flora is chosen. In such an aquascape, fauna may feel more comfortable and secure due to the overhanging leaves and the shadows they cast. In the wild, much of an aquatic habitat’s fauna can be found at the areas where marginal flora grows, as this area provides plenty of shade and food. Another advantage that Riparium style has over the Dutch or Nature Aquarium style is the ability to rear fauna that is susceptible to jumping, without they need for a aquarium lid. The Riparium aquascape can be designed specifically for such fauna and allow them little chance of jumping outside of the aquarium.

A great way to enjoy the Riparium style is to view it from the top. A Riparium aquascape that has been expertly executed has an intricacy that is stunning to behold when viewed in this manner. The overlapping of tall flora anchored by the combination of low, floating flora creates a sense of realism of nature. It is a joy at observing fauna peek through the floating flora and swim around the marginal flora with confidence, just like in nature.

Because a Riparium aquascape contains lesser amount of water, this will translate to a lesser amount of fauna supported. When using a fauna to aquarium size ratio, the Riparium aquascape will always be able to support less fauna than a Dutch or Nature Aquarium aquascape.

However, unlike fauna, flora does not really depend on a specific amount of water to determine the amount that can be sustained. When comparing the ratio of water to the amount of flora, the nutrient uptake by flora in a Riparium aquascape may be similar or even greater than the Dutch or Nature Aquarium aquascapes. As such, when comparing similar tank sizes, the filtration of water by flora in a Riparium aquascape is often more effective than the Dutch or Nature Aquarium aquascapes.

An aquarium that is full of water is always a serious amount of weight, and tanks should always be supported on dedicated aquarium stands made to withstand such weights. As a Riparium aquascape is not a fully filled aquarium, it opens up lots of opportunities in terms of aquarium placement. One prospect that excites us is to have a Riparium aquascape placed on a working desk. Almost anyone will welcome such a relaxing distraction and stunning re-creation of nature, without risking a collapsed desk.

The Riparium style usually requires smaller, or the lack, of equipment when compared to the Dutch or Nature Aquarium style because of the lesser amount of water and the use of marginal flora.

A lesser amount of water will always mean that a smaller filter can be used. A smaller filter is easier on the wallet and more flexible in its placement, an important factor if your Riparium aquascape is not placed on a conventional aquarium cabinet and equipment must be displayed in the open or hidden in a corner.

For healthy flora growth in a Dutch or Nature Aquarium aquascape, injected pressurised CO2 is often used as CO2 in an aquarium is not enough. For the Riparium aquascape that uses marginal flora, this addition of CO2 is not required as marginal flora absorbs CO2 from the air and not from the water. This saves the Riparium aquascaper the cost of purchasing a pressurised CO2 set and the space to house it.

The future for the Riparium style looks bright. Instead of a variation of the Dutch or Nature Aquarium style, the Riparium style has numerous unique factors that sets it properly apart.

A great reason to why the Nature Aquarium style is universally popular today is because of the efforts of Aqua Design Amano, a driving force in the development and encouragement of the style. The Riparium style looks set to follow in the footsteps of a success story as Riparium Supply is as passionate in the development and encouragement of the Riparium style.

We are excited about the future as the Riparium style continues to gain popularity and look forward to more aquascapes of this unique style and to what it continues to develop into.

Here is a short video that shows the equipment used by Riparium Supply.


Pictorial, information and film credits: Devin Biggs | Riparium Supply

Colourful CF-A2 | Hang on Filter with UV

In Filtration on June 16, 2011 at 00:01

Colourful is a Chinese aquarium brand which is little known outside its local market. For this article, we will be taking a look at this unique hang on filter, one that has ultraviolet capabilities built into it.

It was difficult to get any kind of information off the internet in regards to this filter. We could not find any official website, so the only details we have for this filter is found on the box.

Front of box

The quality of the plastic used in the Colourful CF-A2 are not of the high quality that is found in other competing brands. Our filter came with numerous scratches and with a slight discolouration. This build quality certainly does not inspire much confidence in the product or its long-term longevity.

Similarly, the box that houses the filter spots a lower printing quality compared to other brands. It is a small issue but attention to such details can speaks volumes of the company’s vision.

Side of the box
Side of the box

The Colourful CF-A2 is a filter that is different from other mainstream hang on filters by incorporating ultraviolet as part of its filtering capabilities. Ultraviolet works by passing a thin layer of water over a ultraviolet lamp that produces ultraviolet rays. These rays produce radiation which kill micro-organisms as they pass by, penetrating the cell membrane and destroying them. Harmful disease causing bacteria or algae spores are some of the cells that can be dealt with. However this radiation will not discriminate between good and bad bacteria, so any extra vitamins or nutrients that were added into the aquarium may be eliminated as well.

Ultraviolet lamp

The ultraviolet lamp is housed in a black plastic compartment that dominates the filtration compartment. Right before the ultraviolet lamp is a filter cartridge which contains a ‘biofoam’ and activated carbon. Water from the aquarium enters the filter and passes the filter cartridge before going through the compartment that houses the ultraviolet lamp.

The filter cartridge that Colourful has provided is inadequate for the job. The biofoam is of a very thin layer and it will get clogged with detritus before long, not to mention the lack of surface area for beneficial bacteria habitation. Behind the biofoam is a chamber than houses activated carbon, however the amount of activated carbon provided is disappointing. Because of the poor design of the filter cartridge, effective biological and chemical filtration is not going to be this filter’s strength.

Filter cartridge
Note the thin layer of biofoam and the dismal amount of activated carbon

The ultraviolet lamp is inserted into the base of the filter and screwed in place. As with all connections in this filter, the screw threads are not machined to exact precision and we do have some concerns about water leakages over the long run. The slots holding the filter cartridge are also not exact in its fitting and there will be some water bypass.

Colourful CF-A2’s only strength is in its ease of use. Looking at its almost non-existence biological and chemical filtration properties, one would only purchase this filter if there is a need for an ultraviolet that is easy to set up. Unlike tradition ultraviolet lamps which require its attachment to the filtration path by the use of hoses, the Colourful CF-A2 can be hung on the aquarium and easily removed.

We would only recommend this filter if you are on a very tight budget and you need a ultraviolet filter that hangs on the aquarium. If you do not need these two requirements to be made, there are much better constructed, and designed products out there.

Ultraviolet lamp is inserted into the base of the filter


GEX Roka Boy Compact

In Filtration on June 14, 2011 at 00:01

One of our readers have requested that we do a review on air powered filters as they are still popular and useful in many situations, especially for some types of fauna that are sensitive to the strong water current of power filters. So, we headed out to our LFS and spent some time looking at different air powered filters, trying to find a unique one to start this review. Hidden in a dark corner, at the back of a shelf, we came across the GEX Roka Boy Compact. Immediately we knew that this baby of a filter was the one.

The GEX Roka Boy Compact is extremely small, 4cm across on both sides and 5cm in height. Our first thought was, in what situation will someone require a filter this small? After giving it some thought, we realised that there are numerous pico tanks out there, some housing just one or two shrimps and some housing bettas. Because of the lack of a filter for a tank this small, their aquarists have used daily water changes as a guarantee of healthy water conditions.

Another market for such a small filter could be small fry tanks in which aeration and slight water movement by an air pump, is essential in keeping the eggs or fry healthy. In such a tank, why not throw in this filter? With an air powered filter this small, not only will these tanks have the continual advantage of aeration and water movement, but they will get filtered too!

Here are pictures of the box.

Left side of the box | Nice printing of the filter’s function
Back of the box
Right side of the box | See through window
Top of the box

GEX Roka Boy Compact comes in a box that is nicely designed with informative diagrams and attractive colours. These diagrams conveyed how the filter works without the need to be able to read Japanese, and they create a sense of confidence with the inclusion of schematics. All sides of the box hold information and there is a professional feel to it, enabling the brand to stand out from its other competitors.

The construction of the GEX Roka Boy Compact is excellent. The filter itself is made of good plastic that are well machined and fitted together. The filter is made of two separate plastic compartments that are held together by two plastic clasps. In an inferior product, these two compartments will creak during handling as the parts were not machined to exact measurements. However with the GEX Roka Boy Compact, there is no such fear and the filter shouts quality when held.

The GEX Roka Boy Compact works by filtering your aquarium through water displacement. As air is pumped into your filter, it rises upwards in a designated passageway and heads for the surface. The air that rises in this passageway pushes water upwards to flow out of the filter, theis displacement of the water in the passageway, forces water outside the filter to flow into it via the designated vents. As long as air is introduced into the filter, this displacement will ensure a constant filtering of your aquarium’s water.

One unique feature about the GEX Roka Boy filters not usually found in competing air filters is that they cover all three filtration methods, mechnical, biological and chemical filtration. At the bottom of the GEX Roka Boy Compact, gravel is found and these provide mechanical filtration as these gravel will trap larger detritus before they make their way to the biological media. The trapping of such large detritus is essential as the all important beneficial bacteria is house in the biological media. If such detritus are allowed to get stuck in the biological media instead, the amount of beneficial bacteria will drop due to the blockage of oxygen and water, resulting in a filter that is under performing.

Gravel as mechanical media | Note the vents for water to enter

Biological filtration is provided through the use of fine filter wool and this provides a surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive. Biological media is the most important media in a filter and the surface area dedicated to it should be the largest to house as much beneficial bacteria as possible. These bacteria converts toxic ammonia to nitrite, and from nitrite to relatively harmless nitrate.

Chemical filtration can be found in the form of activated carbon embedded within another layer of filter wool. Activated carbon works by the attraction of organic pollutants by static forces. These forces will bind the pollutants to the activated carbon until all space on the media is filled, absorption effectiveness will thus diminish over time till it stops entirely. Because these attraction forces will wane over time, it is usually recommended that such chemical media be changed on a monthly basis.

Mechanical, Biological and Chemical Filtration
Mechanical filtration through gravel | The multiple vents allows water to flow evenly to the chemical and biological media
Chemical filtration through activated carbon | We recommend a monthly replacement 
Biological filtration through filter wool | We recommend a monthly light rinsing with aquarium water
Water flows out through these vents after bypassing all three filtration media

In summary, the GEX Roka Boy Compact is an air powered filter that has been well thought out in design, and machined to precision. Its strength is that it is small enough to fit into any tank, providing filtration, water circulation and aeration. The main bulk of filtering will be done by the activated carbon as the amount of filter wool for permanent beneficial bacteria inhabitation is quite small. As such, a monthly expense will need to be incurred to change out the activated carbon for a new one to ensure optimal absorption.

If your tank can accommodate a bigger filter, then a larger filter with more surface area for filtration will be better. But if your pico tank can only fit a filter as big as the GEX Roka Boy Compact, we doubt you will be displease with it as long as you are regular with its maintenance.

Size of a 50 cents coin to illustrate how small this filter really is


Elmo’s Planted Tank

In Film on June 12, 2011 at 00:01

Elmo from TPT shot his planted tank with his new DSLR. We are glad to be featuring it here as this film effectively captures the emotions of our hobby.


credit: TickleMyElmo

Microsorum pteropus | Java Fern

In Flora on June 11, 2011 at 00:01

The Microsorium pteropus or Java fern by its popular name, is a well known and popular flora among aquascapers. It is easily available and widely distributed worldwide.

In the wild, the Java fern is found in streams and rivers. They are either fully submerged, or partially, with the spray of water constantly wetting the leaves. In an aquascape, the Java fern should not be planted in the substrate, but be attached to rocks or wood, as how it is in the wild. Its roots enables it to grab onto these surfaces and anchor the fern in its place, which prevents it from drifting with the current.

Many new aquascapers use the Java fern as part of the first aquascape because of its hardy properties.  Unlike many other aquatic flora, the Java fern is not terribly particular about lighting levels and they have been known to survive in aquariums with just ambience lighting. The leaves of the fern almost makes up the entire flora, and this helps in maximizing the amount of light received.

The Java fern is also not too concerned about CO2 or nutrient levels. The reason why it needs so little light is also the reason why it requires no extra CO2 and little nutrients, and that is because it’s slow growing. CO2 that is already present in the aquarium through gaseous exchange at the water’s surface will be sufficient and any nutrients that is leaked from fish food or fish waste will feed the fern.

Although good lighting, injected CO2 and additional nutrients are not needed for the well-being of the Java fern, we have kept it under these conditions. The only difference we noticed was that the leaves were noticeably a brighter green in colour, sometimes with a almost translucent quality to it. Some aquarists have referred to this as a ‘burn out’, but we did not notice any difference in its health, only in its appearance. In our resident 30 litre tank, we will be using the Java fern pretty extensively in such a condition, we will keep you updated with its progress.

The Java fern grows to a maximum height of about 25cm and should be kept at temperatures of about 18 to 28 degrees Celsius. If you have fauna that are herbivorous, you may want to try the Java fern as it contains chemicals that deters such fauna.

Dead leaves of the Java fern will turn black and these should be manually removed. However, you spot a broken leaf, it can be left alone and need not be removed if you don’t want to. Propagation of the Java fern is by the growing of ‘daughter’ plantlets at the edges of the leaves.

The Java fern can be attached to rocks or wood by the use of a thread. In time, the roots will hold the fern in place.


jcardona1′s Wild Discus Biotope | Pictorial Update (2)

In Pictorial on June 10, 2011 at 00:01

jcardona1 has yet another set of awesome pictures to share. In our opinion, these are the best to date, so enjoy them and be inspired!


credit: jcardona1

Eheim Classic 2211 | Eheim Classic 2213

In Filtration on June 9, 2011 at 00:01

After choosing the ADA 30C as the tank to house our aquascape, the next step is to choose our filter. We selected the Eheim Classic 2213 for the job and proceeded to write about it, then we remembered that the Eheim Classic 2211 is also a firm favourite among nano aquascapers. So, to make things more interesting around here, here is an article on both these filters.

The boxes of the Eheim 2211 and Eheim 2213 are not that great of a difference, with the 2213 being about a quarter bigger. The filter themselves however, are another story. The Eheim 2213 is significantly bigger than the 2211, with triple the media capacity.

Technical Specifications:

Eheim Classic 2211

For aquariums: 50 to 150 litres

Flow rate: 300 litres per hour

Media Capacity: 1 litre

Energy used: 5 watts

Height maximum for tubing: 1.2 metres

Dimensions: 110mm x 290mm

Eheim Classic 2213

For aquariums: 80 – 250 litres

Flow rate: 440 litres per hour

Media Capacity: 3 litres

Energy used: 8 watts

Height maximum for tubing: 1.5 metres

Dimensions: 160mm x 355mm

Eheim Classic 2213 (left) | Eheim Classic 2211 (Right)
Eheim 2211 Accessories

We do not know what test parameters does Eheim use to establish their filter to aquarium size recommendations, as such, we will not comment much on them but to say that they are optimistic. In our experience, the strength of the flow of water within your aquarium is highly important. And if we based our filter selection on Eheim’s recommendations, the chosen filter will not be adequate for the job.

Good flow in an aquarium allows fauna the option of swimming against a current. And the availability of such a current ensures the good health and development of fauna by allowing them a means of exercise. However, this rate of flow needs to be adjusted according to the fauna you have, for example, Cardinal tetras will be able to live with a higher flow compared to Discus or Bettas. Fauna have also shown to have a better appetite when they are kept in a aquarium of a good current, growing to be strong and healthy.

There are some that argue our aquariums should not have a good current because the streams and rivers of the wild are gentle. This is true when you look at a specific location in a stream or river, but when you view the entire system as a whole, strong currents do exist in certain parts. In our minuscule aquarium, a good current is thus essential.

Besides the benefit of healthy fauna, a good current in the tank ensures that all uneaten food will not be left decomposing in your flora mass and is instead swept by the current into the filter. The elimination of such detritus is important. Many an aquarium has crashed overnight when the amount of detritus build up to a critical level. In nano tanks, this can happen in a matter of weeks.

Your flora will also thank you for a good flow. Flora grow better in such conditions as nutrients, CO2 and Oxygen are spread by the current to all areas of your aquarium. Some hobbyists today have even started using marine pumps in their freshwater tanks to achieve strong flows of about 100 times the turnover rate!

If you are wondering how much current is too much, we have a simple rule of thumb. Fauna should have places in the aquarium where flow is reduced because of rocks, wood or flora, and they are able to rest there without getting blown around. When they swim in the open spaces, they should be able to do so without difficulty, being moved by the current only if they stop swimming. If you happen to buy a filter that proves to be too strong for your aquarium, do not lose heart as all you have to do is to purchase Eheim’s connecting taps, this will enable you to manually control the amount of flow to your desired amount.

Because of the importance of a good current within an aquarium, the Eheim 2213 was chosen for our 30 litre tank. The Eheim 2211 was not chosen because of its lower output.

Eheim Classic 2211
Eheim Classic 2213

The Eheim 2211 is a cute little filter. If you have been exposed to normal sized filters, laying your eyes on a 2211 for the first time almost brings out a chuckle. It is the exact, same Eheim Classic filter but in miniature, and only holds a litre of media. We have used the 2211 for our 10 litre tanks and it is perfect. We would recommend the 2211 for any aquarium with an aquascape under 25 litres.

The Eheim 2213 is much bigger than the 2211 but is still a small filter when compared to the rest of the Classic range. It holds 3 litres of media, 3 times the capacity of the 2211 and this is significant. For any aquarium with an aquascape above 25 litres to about 45 litres, we would recommend the 2213.

The build quality of an Eheim is among the best for filters. Quality control is usually excellent, but was slightly better in the past when Eheim filters were made exclusively in Germany. Eheim filters are also famous for their low noise operation and can be safety recommended for aquariums found in bedrooms. You would have to be almost beside it to hear it hum.

Besides being quiet, these filters are also known for being energy efficient. The 2211 takes only 5 watts to run and the 2213 takes 8 watts to run. Other filters from competing brands sometimes require up to 3-5 times the wattage of the 2211 to push the same amount of water.

Eheim Classic filters have been around for about 30 years and were Eheim’s first cannister filters. Although Eheim now carries numerous higher tech filters, the Classic range remains a cult favourite due to its ease of use, its simplicity, its time-proven effectiveness and its favourable prices. And on top of all these strong points, a favourite function amount its users is the ability to back flush the filter, thus cleaning the filter without the removal of the media from the filter body.

Eheim Classic 2211

The Eheim 2211 consists of 2 plastic meshes, a blue sponge (mechanical filtration media) and a white sponge (polishing/fine filtration media). Here is how you should set up your 2211:

1. A plastic mesh is first inserted into the filter with the legs of the mesh facing downwards. This creates a space at the bottom of the filter where large particles will be trapped till their removal during filter maintenance.

2. The blue sponge or mechanical filtration media is inserted next. Mechanical media is designed to stop large particles from passing through, while allowing minute particles and water to pass. These large particles will accumulate over time and we recommend performing a back flush every month to wash these particles out of your filter.

3. You would have to purchase biological filtration media as it is not included and this media is inserted after the mechanical media. Biological media is the most important media in your filter as it is on the biological media that beneficial bacteria establishes. These bacteria converts toxic ammonia to nitrite, and from nitrite to relatively harmless nitrate.

4. After biological media, you may want to add chemical filtration media. Chemical media works by the attraction of organic pollutants by static forces. These forces will bind the pollutants to the chemical media until all space on the media is filled, absorption effectiveness will thus diminish over time. Activated carbon is a common form of chemical media and we recommend its replacement on a monthly basis to ensure optimal absorption.

5. The last filtration media that is added should be a fine sponge that polishes the water as it leaves the filter. This fine sponge will also trap minute dirt till their removal during filter maintenance.

6. Lastly, the second plastic mesh is placed on top of all the media with its legs facing upwards, this ensures the necessary space for optimal water flow into the impeller chamber.

Eheim Classic 2213

The Eheim 2213 consists of 4 blue sponge, an activated carbon sponge, and a white sponge. Here is how you should set up your 2213:

1. The Eheim 2213 is the only filter in the Classic range to come equipped with a filter basket. Remove the lid of the basket and insert a blue sponge or mechanical filtration media. If you look into your filter body, you will notice that there are stands to hold your basket above the base when its inserted. This stands create a space at the bottom of the filter where large particles will be trapped till their removal during filter maintenance. These large particles will accumulate over time and we recommend performing a back flush every month to wash these particles out of your filter.

2. Unlike the Eheim 2211, the 2213 comes with 4 blue sponges. These blue sponges can double up as biological filtration media if you need them too, however, they will not be as effective as dedicated biological media. Our recommendation is to purchase dedicated biological media if you are able to. Biological media is the most important media in your filter as it is on the biological media that beneficial bacteria establishes. These bacteria converts toxic ammonia to nitrite, and from nitrite to relatively harmless nitrate.

3. After biological media, the activated carbon sponge is next. This sponge is quite thin and its absorption properties will not be as strong as other forms of activated carbon, such as activated carbon pellets. If you desire stronger chemical filtration, either use pellets or simply add more sponges. Chemical media works by the attraction of all organic pollutants by static forces. These forces will bind the pollutants to the chemical media until all space on the media is filled, absorption effectiveness will thus diminish over time. We recommend its replacement on a monthly basis to ensure optimal absorption.

4. The last filtration media that is added should be a fine sponge that polishes the water as it leaves the filter. This fine sponge will trap minute dirt till their removal during filter maintenance.

5. Lastly, replace the lid on the filter basket, screw it shut and place the entire basket in the filter body. You will notice that the lid is quite deeply flushed within the basket, this is to ensure the necessary space for optimal water flow into the impeller chamber.

Here are some pictures of the sponges that come with the filters.

Blue sponge
Blue sponge | macro
White sponge
White sponge | macro
Activated carbon sponge
Activated carbon sponge | macro


ADA 30C Cube Garden

In Tank on June 8, 2011 at 00:01

What good are we as an aquatic gazette if we do not have a resident tank? With that in mind, we have embarked on building a resident tank and the tank we have chosen is an ADA 30C, a cube tank measuring 30cm in length, 30cm in depth and 30cm in height. The ADA 30C is a rimless tank, build with glass of high clarity and joined together by neat silicon work, all hallmarks of an ADA cube garden (ADA’s term for tanks).

A rimless tank is always our preferred aquarium tank, not only does it allow for effective photography, but also in daily viewing, in which the aquascape is always the unchallenged focus. A rimless ADA cube garden is beautiful in its simplicity and inconspicuous in nature, but these strengths also bring about a unique challenge in equipment selection.

There is not much sense in investing in an ADA cube garden and then cluttering the look with equipment such as an internal filters or surface skimmers. We would be the first to admit that there is nothing wrong with using such equipment. But to purchase such a tank that is much more expensive than a normal tank, is to also make an effort towards your equipment being similarly inconspicuous. There are numerous manufacturers that produce equipment suitable for such a tank. If care is taken to outfit such a tank with low profile equipment, your aquascape will be of more prominence.

We really do appreciate the clarity of the ADA 30C, and this clarity applies to all cube gardens that ADA produces. There are multiple build threads on numerous forums that provide an idea of how clear the ADA cube gardens are, but we feel that this clarity will only be fully appreciated when the aquascape is viewed daily, through this glass. This level of clarity also presents a more accurate view of your aquascape as it lacks the green tinge found in normal tanks.

In an interview on the glass that ADA uses, Takashi Amano notes that: “this clearer glass gives a brighter impression, because it lacks the green tinge which darkens the aquascape. To achieve this level of clarity, a softer glass had to be used as compared to normal glass.”

Because a softer glass is used, it is thus more susceptible to scratches as compared to normal glass tank. However, being careful around the tank and with the minute nature of these scratches, there should be no visible evidence of any damage. We will follow up on this softer glass and see if we do get more scratches than our usual glass tanks over time.

Besides their rimless appearance, ADA tanks are known for their excellent construction and extremely need silicon work. We did two macro shots of the silicon work on our 30C to give you an idea of how neat they are. Even when we ordered customised, rimless glass tanks with special instructions for neat silicon work, our local tank makers were never close to this standard.

The glass that made our tank was cut perfectly, every corner and edge was perfect and smooth, truly a work to behold. The entire construction is so precise, so delicate, bonded with clear silicon that almost does not exist, makes us wonder how such a tank keeps 30kg of water behind its walls.

Here is another picture of the glass construction with silicon work at one of the corners.

If your desire of an aquarium tank is for one of the best constructed tanks with a beautiful simplicity to it, we would highly recommend an ADA cube garden. Although you will be paying a premium for your purchase, such a tank is well worth it, and all ADA cube gardens come with a three year warranty, so you can be assure that your investment is well protected.

Our hardscape on the first try. Let us know what you think of it!


credit: Aqua Design Amano


In Local Fish Shop on June 7, 2011 at 00:01

Petmart is a fish shop located at Serangoon North, an area well-known for its vast array of pet related stores and fish shops. Petmart is easily one of the best well stocked LFS at Serangoon North and we have been frequenting them for some years now. It operates as a family business and has been around for a long time.

The first thing that you will notice upon entering Petmart is that it is packed with equipment, literally from floor to ceiling. It’s quite a remarkable sight and they do have stock for all regular brands of equipment. Even if you do not see what you are looking for, just approach one of the staff as they do have stocks that are out of sight.

Fauna choices are decent, with popular fauna such as Tetras, Crystal Red Shrimps, Corydoras, Bettas and Discus are available. However, the grade of fauna is more of the commercial market type, if you would like higher grades of a particular fauna, Petmart is able to arrange a special order.

Flora selection is very decent. All popular flora, especially large pieces of wood with attached Java Ferns, Anubias nana or Moss can be found. Hemianthus callitrichoides (HC), Glossostigma elatinoides (glosso), Elocharis acicularis (dwarf hairgrass), US Fissiden and Marimo Ball are just some of the flora that are regularly found.

The highlight in visiting Petmart and the reason for their success is the exceptional customer service rendered. They are easily one of the top LFS when it comes to customer service. We have recommended many a newcomer to Benjamin (Managing Director) and he has patiently and expertly took care of them, explaining to them the fundamentals of the hobby and ensuring that they spend what is comfortable to them while getting the job done.

Excellently stocked, coupled with excellent service, makes Petmart our preferred LFS. We highly recommend any newcomers or hobbyists staying around the area to pay them a visit.


Anubias barteri var. nana ‘Petite’

In Flora on June 4, 2011 at 00:01

The Anubias nana ‘Petite’ originates from West Africa amd is one of the smallest Anubias species. It is popular among aquascapers for its hardiness, its low lighting requirements and its ability to grow without substrate, allowing placement on driftwood and rocks.

The leaves of the Anubias nana ‘Petite’ are dark green and tough, they grow on short stems that originate from a central root or rhizome. It is sometimes recommended for aquascapes that house aggressive fauna as they can stand up to some abuse as compared to other types of flora.

The maximum height of the Anubias nana ‘Petite’ is about 5cm. It grows slowly and is not particular about lighting levels. For optimal health, it should be kept at the range of 22-28 degrees Celsius. The Anubias nana propagates through cutting up the rhizome or side roots.

Anubias nana ‘Petite’ is perfect for new aquascapers who desire a flora that is easy to care for. An effective and easy aquascape composing of Anubias nana ‘Petite’, Java Fern and Java Moss can be created with driftwood and rocks. Such an aquascape will be very forgivable when it comes to lighting and nutrient levels. So if you are new to aquascaping, do give the Anubias nana a try.


Aquarium Lighting Options

In Lighting on June 3, 2011 at 00:01

For a newcomer into the hobby, there are a myriad of lighting options. In this article, we will be breaking down lighting options to simple facts, enabling you to choose the best option for yourself.

Nano aquascapes are all the rage these days with brands like Dennerle, Dymax, Eheim and Ecoxotic offering nano aquariums complete with lighting and filters. An older model, such as the Dennerle Nano Cube will spot a compact fluorescent lighting unit, while a newer modeil such as Ecoxotic’s EcoPico will spot a sleek LED lighting unit. If your aquarium is not a nano one, the options for lighting only increases, with T8, T5, T5 High Ouput (T5HO) or Metal halides to consider.

ADA Grand Solar I | two 36W twin fluorescent lamps with metal halide 150W

Compact Fluorescent

Nano compact fluorescent lighting units are often found in three common wattages, 9W, 11W or 13W of light. The compact fluorescent work by using the gases embedded inside their tubes during operation. However after over a period of use, these gases will start to deplete and the intensity of light emitted will gradually decrease. Therefore, it is always recommended that compact fluorescents are changed on an annual basis to ensure peak light output. Because of the use of these gases, compact fluorescents also produce unwanted heat during operation. However, Well designed lighting units will ensure that this heat is not passed on to the aquarium but vented upwards.

Compact fluorescent lighting units can be found in many different types of designs, at different prices. They currently dominate the nano lighting market because of their reliability and availability.

Dennerle's lighting unit for its nano cube

Nano LED (Light Emitting Diode)

Nano LED lighting units are very new to the hobby, only being readily available in the last 2 years or so. They are touted as the future replacement of the compact fluorescent, and there are several appealing reasons to this claim.

LEDs use solid semiconductors to generate light, rather than the compact fluorescent’s method of using gases and filaments. This means that instead of the usual annual change of bulbs because of a decrease in lighting intensity, LED lights will only need a change after 50,000 hours. To put it in better perspective, that is 17 years of operations if your photo period is 8 hours a day! Because of the lack of gases in operations, LEDs run much cooler than compact fluorescents. LEDs are also very energy efficient, with a single LED using a maximum of 3W of electricity. Being energy efficient is always a good thing these days.

Besides all these advantages, the biggest appeal of using a LED lighting unit, is the beautiful glitter lines that will be seen in your aquascape. Before the introduction of the LED, only the Metal halide could produce these natural looking glitter lines, and a metal halide light is not an option for a nano aquariums because of the heat and lighting intensity they produce. These glitter lines enhance the appearance of an aquascape and produces the same effects we see in lakes and ponds when sunlight shines through.

With all these advantages, one might ask why has not the LED completely replaced the compact fluorescent? The reason is simple and one that is dear to our hearts, their relatively high initial cost. Although LEDs will pay for themselves over their 50,000 hours lifespan, their initial overlay is high and often many times the cost of a compact fluorescent. This will deter many a starting aquarist whose budget for a lighting unit may not allow for an LED lighting unit. Also, several companies have started selling nano LED lighting units that are questionable, with their lighting intensity dropping after a mere 6 months of use! However, with more established and reputable companies such as Eheim and Ecoxotic embracing nano LEDs, there will be an increase in their use, as consumer confidence rides on those brands.

Ecoxotic's EcoPico LED arm


Fluorescent lighting units are the bigger versions of the compact fluorescent. They come in three different kinds, the T8, T5 and T5HO. Fluorescent tubes are prefixed T, and categorised based on how many eighths of an inch they are across. For example, a T8 will be eight-eighths of an inch, or an inch, and a T5 will be five-eighths of an inch. Although a T5 is smaller in diameter as compared to a T8, advances in technology has allowed the current T5 to be stronger in light output and intensity. Similar to the smaller compact fluorescent, T5 and T8 fluorescents do emit quite a bit of heat during operations. They are quite affordable to run and the initial costs for these lighting units are very reasonable.

T5HO fluorescents are similar to their normal T5 counterparts in size, but as their name suggest, they produce a higher output of light. T5HO runs on electronic ballasts as compared to the other fluorescents which run on magnetic ballasts, this enables the T5HO a greater lighting intensity. This greater intensity however, translates to higher running costs and a considerable amount of heat being produced during operation. Some T5HO lighting units which feature more than 4 tubes, are equipped with inbuilt fans to disperse this heat. The initial cost of a T5HO lighting set is higher as well.

The most effective way to get the most out of your fluorescent lighting units is to ensure that they are outfitted with a quality reflector. A poor quality reflector or the lack of one will result in much light being ‘lost’, or not being directed towards the aquarium. As with their smaller compact fluorescent counterparts, all fluorescent lighting units will need their fluorescent tubes changed annually, to ensure optimal levels of intensity.

ADA Grand Solar II | four 36W twin fluorescent lamps

Metal Halide

Metal halide lighting units are a staple in aquascapes that require strong lighting. Ranging from 70W to 1000W, these lighting units are good options if you need that kind of lighting intensity. Metal halide operates through the use of gases and thus they also produce a considerable amount of heat. In metal halide lighting units of strong wattages, this amount of heat will need to be dealt with, with the use of multiple fans or an aquarium chiller. Metal halide are also costly to run, and they would require an annual change to ensure optimal intensity.

There is a quality to the metal halide, similar to LEDs, that makes it much more appealing than fluorescents. Metal halides produce the same glitter lines we see when natural sunlight hits an aquatic environment, and this is because Metal halides and LEDs are pinpoint lights, while fluorescents are diffused light. Because a single metal halide is capable of a massive amount of light compared to the small LEDs, the pinpoint effect is a single big point of light while LEDs are many smaller points of lights. Bearing this in mind, only light demanding flora should be placed directly under the metal halide, while the lesser light needy flora can be placed further. One major advantage the metal halide has over fluorescents is the ability to punch deep into an aquarium. For an aquarium that is deeper than 60cm, metal halides are the usual recommendations.

ADA Grand Solar 250 | metal halide 250W

LEDs for mainstream tanks

LED lighting units for mainstream tanks share all the same attributes as the LEDs for nano tanks with the exception of the difference in quantity. The bigger the tank, the more LEDs are needed. As such, the initial cost LED lighting units for substantially sized tanks are expensive when compared to a metal halide lighting unit that does the same job.

If the initial cost is not an issue, the LED lighting unit will be cheaper to run over the years and it will be drastically cooler in operation. LED lighting units for mainstream tanks are not common yet, and most of those found are DIY efforts. As LEDs manufacturing costs gradually reduce, these lights will see more mainstream action in the near future.

As always in this hobby, there is no fix and fast rule to our approach with aquarium equipment. What’s most important is that the equipment desired fits our budget and does the job required of it. So do your research, take your time and enjoy the journey! We hope we have been of some help.


credit: Aqua Design Amano | Dennerle | Ecoxotic

ADA Products How-To Series | Episode 1

In Film on June 2, 2011 at 00:01

Aquarium Design Group has started a new film series on how to use ADA products and set up an aquascape.  In this first episode, they demonstrate how ADA establishes a substrate, plant hairgrass and set up a rarely seen Super Jet filter.

Enjoy this first episode and we will bring subsequent episodes to you when they are released.


credits: Aquarium Design Group | ADGVibe

Aquarama 2011 | Singapore

In Pictorial on June 1, 2011 at 00:01

Singapore exports 20.71% of the world’s ornamental fish and this translates to a cool 319 million US dollars. Aquarama, in its 12th year, is a International Ornamental Fish and Acessories Exhibition that is held once every two years. This year’s exhibition boosts 112 exhibitors with big brands like Dennerle, Eheim, Elos, Hikari and Seachem taking part. There were also various aquatic competitions, discounted equipment sales and the introduction of new products. Aquarama is always a great time for retailers to meet their customers and for all aquatic hobbyist to bond together.

Here is our pictorial coverage of the event.

The new EcoPico in a marine set up. This Singapore edition comes with an Eheim pickup 2006 filter

One of the entries for the aquascaping contest. We felt that this aquascape should have won.

An ingenious way to represent 'foreground' flora

This is the winning aquascape. Very disappointing in our opinion.

Second place

This is the winning aquascape for the nano category. A very nicely executed aquascape that deserved to win. We love the placement of the rocks.

The nano aquascapes were housed in a Dennerle Nano Cube

Third place

Acrylic tanks are amazingly clear, not even low iron glass is this clear.

Dymax IQ series, quite well received among the nano aquascaping community

LED lights are all the rage these days

Seachem produces Prime and Excel, a staple for many of us

API. Another great aquatic chemical company

Another Chinese brand offering a substitute to ADA's CO2 Advance System

Eheim's new nano tank, the aquastyle. It will be in the local market in a month or two

The water outflow from the filter is a waterfall type. The LED light was bright, but not that impressive

Eheim's new aquacompact filter, designed for nano tanks. We think it is a smart move, and may replace hang on filters for most serious aquascapers due to the increased capacity for filtration media

When the first official pictures of it were published, aquascapers lamented that the attaching arm was big and would be an eyesore in nano aquascapers. After seeing it in person, it is smaller than what the official pictures suggest. We think it may work out

Eheim is launching lots of new products this year. The black internal filter is their new biopower filter, an 'internal filter with external filter technologies'. The green filter on its left is their Aquaball series, a very effective internal filter, reviewed as the best internal filter on Practical Fishkeeping

Eheim's biggest filter, the Classic 2260, the size of a small child

Interesting wall mounted tank.

Arctica. Highly regarded aquarium chillers