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Adequate aeration for your aquarium.

  • Author StinkyLoaf
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Oxygen (O2) is an important element to consider in the fishkeeping hobby. Humans breathe it and so do your aquatic animals and bacteria colony. In the aquarium, oxygen exchange must occur so your fish and other stock can breathe. Oxygen exchange is when oxygen in the air dissolves into the water. This can be created by agitation of the water’s surface from the filter, an airstone and/or powerhead.

In planted tanks, high rates of oxygen exchange can deplete the water of carbon dioxide (Co2), which the plants need to respire. In this case it’s a good idea to use a Co2 system or lower the surface agitation to allow Co2 to build up, which the plants will convert into dissolved oxygen through respiration. Fake plants unfortunately will not respire.

If the filter current is weak and thus isn’t oxygenating the water enough then you can use an airstone or a powerhead to increase the rate of oxygen dissolution in the aquarium. These add-ons can be useful in densely stocked tanks where oxygen is in higher demand. Please note that you shouldn’t use an airstone or powerhead as a replacement for a filter.

Of course, the suggested add-ons to your aquarium require electricity from a plug to function. This means that the water won’t be oxygenated by them if a power outage were to occur. Although most power outages have a duration of a few minutes, in extreme cases they can last for several days as a result of a disaster, such as a heavy storm or damage towards utility poles. If the outage is like most and has a short duration then no harm should be done, but it’s still a good idea to plan ahead of a power outage to keep your fish safe.

There are many ways to prepare your aquarium for a power outage. Battery operated air pumps are a thing, and they’re cheap too, usually around the equivalent of $10 or slightly higher priced each. Ensure that if you have the same quantity of these pumps as you do tanks, so there’s one pump for each. Keeping a battery operated air pump on a lower power setting should conserve it’s battery life for longer periods of time.

Here’s some additional info on how to protect your aquarium from a power outage: To keep the tank adequately heated during a power outage you can use a blanket or towel to insulate the heat and/or tape hand warmers to the exterior of the tank. A liquid test kit such as API Master is good to track ammonia production while the filter is off, and water changes will lower the concentration of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate as usual.

Now that we’ve covered some ways to prepare your aquarium for a power outage let’s get back to the topic of oxygenation and what else can be done.

So, what if you aren’t prepared for a power outage and one occurs? Is there a method of oxygenating the aquarium that’s super cheap, easy to do and is reliable even if you didn’t prepare beforehand? Does this method use up zero battery power? While it sounds too good to be true, there actually is a super easy method of oxygenating water during a power outage. It’s a bit sciency, but all you need to know is that potatoes chemically react with hydrogen peroxide to produce oxygen gas and water. What’s that got to do with the topic of oxygenating your aquarium you may ask?

Well, this information is crucial for making a quick and easy DIY air pump at home. You’ll need an empty plastic water bottle (with a cap), a 6mm hose, some airline tubing, a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (the remaiming 97% is water) and finely diced potato slices (a single potato should be worth enough slices). All of this should be readily available or already around the house. This should cost the equivalent of only a few American dollars depending on where you shop or if you already have some of the ingredients at home.

Once you have everything you need you can begin by creating a hole in the bottle cap (you can use a drill or a sharp object to make a hole) for the hose. The hole should be a bit thinner than the hose to ensure that the hose fits in tight (a 6mm hose should squeeze tightly into a 5mm wide hole). Ensure this hose can reach into the aquarium water and no more than an inch deep into the bottle. Next you want to firmly apply the airline tubing onto the end of the hose that will go into the water, and then add it into the water.

At this stage the structure of the DIY pump is finished. It’s at this point when you’ll need to add the peroxide solution and the potato slices so the pump can create oxygen. To start the pump, add the potato slices into the bottle and then pour enough hydrogen peroxide solution into the bottle to submerge the slices. Oxygen creates by the reaction will be forced into the aquarium through the hose. At this stage you’re done building the pump. Congratulations!

Chances of the solution (or the foam the reaction creates) entering the tank are small; the pump will run for around a day before the solution decomposes entirely. in the meantime, watch the pump carefully in case of accidents. The solution will slowly rise as water is produced along with the oxygen. The first four hours is when the pump creates the most oxygen and water.

Please note that this DIY air pump will not function permanently without adding fresh potato slices, 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and removing the excess water from the bottle every 24 hours. It’s best to use in an emergency.

That’s about it for this article. I hope you learned something today, and that you now know what can be done ahead of and during an emergency!
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