Friday, 6 September 2019

Nine months on and still no coral? - saltwater aquarium update

When I firth thought about setting up my saltwater aquarium I have visions of vibrant colorful fish and gorgeous corals. I've always found watching marine aquariums really entertaining. Especially the many different forms of aquatic life that can be seen going about their business. My favorite thing to watch is the invertebrates such as crabs and shrimps. I find them especially fascinating. This was what I had hoped to be doing round about now but no, not me, my aquarium dreams were to take a different path and nearly 9 months down the line, I spend more time cleaning algae and cyanobacteria from the surfaces inside my saltwater aquarium than anything else, aquarium related, than anything else. Oh, and there is still no corals or vibrant livestock either.

Why? I ask myself that same question every day. At first, I considered the fact I had been using conditioned tap water to create my saltwater. This can create problems for sure and maybe my bacteria outbreak could be attributed to this issue. So I began to use a RODI water filter to mix my saltwater. This single change did make a difference with my water perimeters for sure. My water had never been better. But the issue was still not going away.
My reverse osmosis water filter is available from
This is the 50g per day model which means I can fill 1 x 25l drum in about 3 hours.
I would clean as much as I could each time I did a water change - which was twice a week,  just saying! and the next day the cyanobacteria was back again in full force. This had me stumped. What was causing it?

I began to do more reading and try to find a solution to this horrible issue. The sooner I could get passed this stage, the closer that dream aquarium would be. Each day when I turned the lights on, Id just want to turn them straight back off again. I had a swamp in my home, not a reef tank. This was not good.

When I was in my local Fishkeeper, I was discussing the problem with one of the staff members and they recommended a combination of three products from ARKA Bioteche or Microbe-Lift as their range of products are called. I was advised that this would kill all cyanobacteria in my aquarium. At this stage, I was ready to try anything so after picking up what I needed I headed home with a battle plan and big expectations.

Let me explain this plan and what it involves.

The three products needed are called:

  • Nite Out II
  • Special Blend
  • Zeopure powder

The process involves dosing your aquarium every second night with Nite Out II when you switch the lights off. At the same time dose the aquarium with Zeopure powder. Weekly dosing with Special blend is also required. It is very straight forward but 100% effective. I repeated this process for over a month and in the end, all the bacteria was gone.

You might be thinking that at this point, I'd be stocking my freshly renewed and clean aquarium with the fish of my dreams. You would be wrong. Not only did the bacteria return as soon as I stopped this routine, But It has also come back stronger. This is because although I successfully killed and removed all the bacteria from my aquarium, I have yet to deal with the cause of the problem. This is the part where I struggle. I cannot find the source of the issue.

Currently, I am looking at adding a protein skimmer. There has been a lot of debris lying o the water surface and bubbles are forming around the edge of the aquarium. Could this be contributing to the problem? I'm not sure yet but I know adding a skimmer can only help the situation.

Whatever the cause, I will discover it and do everything I can to fix it. My dream aquarium will happen. Id love to hear from anyone who thinks they have the answer. Even if you have had a similar problem with your aquarium, please either comment below or get in touch on Facebook

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Lets get...Salty!!

For many fishkeepers (myself included) the thought of setting up a saltwater aquarium themselves can be filled with confusion. What equipment do I need, How do I make salt water and what is live rock?

I've recently set up a new saltwater aquarium and want to share my journey every step of the way. I am no expert when it comes to aquariums, let alone saltwater systems, however, I believe that with the right support and enough research, anyone can have their own marine aquarium with beautiful colourful fish, corals, shrimps and crabs.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you what I have done so far and what I have planned next for my own saltwater aquarium.

First of all, this project would not be possible if it were not for the support of the following companies.

  • Prodibio
  • ARKA Biotech
  • Fluval
  • Fishkeeper Scotland - Melville
  • Hydor

With their support along with the help of the reef keeping the online community, I feel very positive about taking on the challenge of marine fishkeeping. So If you are considering setting up your own reef tank, subscribe to the Lothian Fishkeeper Channel and follow my progress.

Next week, Filtration is the focus. Internal. or external?

bye for now


Friday, 8 June 2018

The Native Scottish Stream Biotope - a father daughter project

Hi Guys,

Springtime always brings along lots of things to do outside. Our local pond is always busy during spring with lots of ducklings and signets bobbing about. Trees are blooming and plants are popping up all over the place. It really is my favourite time of the year.

This year I really wanted to take advantage of the spring season and enjoy some time with the kids down at the pond. We decided to try and recreate an area of the pond - in a home aquarium.

Our local pond is populated is home to a woodpecker, kingfisher, crane, swans, ducks, squirrels and all the other woodlice creature. Under the surface of the water, you will find lots of equally as interesting things. This is what we done.

So Myself plus my two daughters, Anna (aged 3) & Ava (aged 8) set of on our mission to bring the pond into our home. After walking around the large pond and following the stream down to the smaller pond, we eventually picked the perfect spot. It was easy to get into the water and had lots of fish swimming around.

The exact coordinates of our chosen spot were 55°55.844'N -03°30.247'W which is known locally as the small lanthorn pond or lower Dedridge pond. This is where the stream flows into the pond area and was only about 30cm deep with a slow flow of water.

Initially, I wanted to look closely at the substrate in order to recreate this at home. Looking closely I noticed that the bottom of the stream/pond was covered in smooth rounded black pebbles. Amongst the pebbles was a heavy leaf litter which has fallen from the trees directly above the water. This included Oak and Birch leaves. I also noted some fallen branches and algae growing on some of the pebbles and branches.

 Looking even closer, I found small Gammarus pulex and tiny leaches living underneath the stones. The Gammarus in particular  are a great food source for the predatory Three-Spinned Stickleback we hoped to catch and study.

Collecting several different sizes of stones plus a piece of wood and leaf litter from the surrounding area would hopefully off any fish collected a similar environment in the aquarium.

After collecting some invertebrates and stones, wood and leaves, we set to work catching fish. This was the part my two daughters were really looking forward to and who could blame them. I was actually telling them to get into the water instead of the usual warnings to stay away from the water.

I spent most of my childhood in and around the local pond and watching my daughters dipping their nets into the water reminded me of how much fun it could be. Ava was quick to go chasing the shoals of fish shooting past her while I was sticking to the sides. By shoving my net underneath the bank, I was finding plenty small stickleback females. This was perfect. I was delighted to find a large male stickleback in the net too. His amazing red breast and neon blue eyes are unmistakable.

Ava was catching things too but for some reason, she was only able to catch chubby tadpoles. As we were setting up a smaller aquarium, we released these back to the water after having a close look at them and discussing the different stages tadpoles go through before becoming adults. Again, this took me back to being a boy and remembering the excitement of discovering frog spawn in the pond.

We collected about 4 females and one large male fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) in total. Alongside the fish, We were able to collect several bladder snails, a really nice rams horn snail, a few Gammarus, some little tiny leaches and a water beetle (Coleoptera)
Looking around the pond there are a wide variety of plants, mosses and wild flowers. However none of which originated from the water so we didn't take any for our project. Its worth noting that the area we were studying didn't have any plants growing in the water and only one type of green filamentous algae which was attached to several rocks that were collected.
Myosotis scorpioides - Water forget-me-not
are in abundance in this area
Ferns and liverwarts are also growing
all around the water

Finally, we gathered up some of the finer substrate to add to the black soil we had at home. we decided on black soil because it is as close to the black rocks and gravel as we could get. I didn't want to remove too much of the substrate from the stream because the cleaning process would have killed any living organisms. Will all this packed up, We made out way back home to begin our Scottish Stream Biotope Aquarium.
Soil, Stones, Wood and moss all collected from the
substrate of the stream.
Once back home, We spent some time checking out our interesting finds up close. The kids especially liked the ramshorn snail with its swirly shell. Ive kept golden rams horn snails in my other aquariums before but the one we caught was larger and had a solid black shell.

With the aquarium in place, I added the black soil then began setting out the black stones we collected followed by the branch. I then added the moss and covered in oak leaves that found around the pond.

The easiest way to fill the aquarium with water was to cover the entire layout using a plastic bag. By doing this the mucky substrate was not disturbed a great deal. Once the water is in the bag can easily be removed.

With a setup like this, The water temperature I was aiming for was round about 18° so no heater was added. The room temperature rarely goes passed 20° which shouldn't present any issues.

For filtration I went with my small Hydor internal filter which would sit in the corner of the tank. This would blend into the background.

With all the live stock currently being held in buckets and tubs in my garden ( in the shade) I wanted this tank to be ready asap. I added three products which would trap ammonia, establish a healthy biological filter and provide all the trace elements to make these wild caught fish feel as close to nature as possible.
Ramshorn Snail
Eggs from the Ramshorn

As soon as the the water reached the right temperature, we began adding the fish. Starting with the smaller females one by one they swam down to the leaf litter and began exploring their new home. Next we added the snails. My Daughter really enjoyed this part (she has a thing for collecting snails from our garden). Finally we added our little monster. Watching the big male dart about exploring his new surroundings and displaying this nasty spikes on his back was great. Having only ever really kept tropical or marine fish, it was fascinating to watch this mean looking fish settle in.

Our Sticklebacks are not used to prepared fish food so I was a little concerned about what to feed them. initially we fed them frozen bloodworm with success. We also offered frozen gammarus which was a big hit. however many of the gammarus were too big to be eaten by the rest of the fish. They enjoy most frozen foods, both meaty and vegetable foods are enjoyed. Recently I have introduced an insect meal based dry food granule which to begin with was rejected but now will bee eaten by all the fish.

In this video you can see the male building his nest by selecting various bits of moss other plant matter lying around. He glues this together by secreting a protein based liquid from his kidney. He is very selective over which materials to use and will often remove pieces to replace them. Once his nest is complete, he will trap a female inside and they will spawn. He will chase the female away and take full responsibility over the care of the eggs and eventually the fry will emerge free swimming. 

I have yet to see a successful spawning. However this doesn't rule out the fact it may have taken place. We watch our fish daily and eagerly await some baby sticklebacks. 

Our native Scottish stream biotope was an idea my daughter Ava came up with. She is very much an outdoor girl and spends every day playing down at the pond an the surrounding woodlands. Ava doesn't have a great interest in my other aquariums so when she came to me with this idea, I was delighted. It has been great talking to Ava about the different things we found and spending time doing what I used to do as a boy. It brought back so many happy memories. I urge you all to do something like this with your kids. You won't regret it.

The lifespan of these fish is normally around 2 years so I do intend on maintaining this biotope and hope to follow through with the spawning cycle to fully grown adult fish. I think this would be really educational for my daughter. 

I will do a follow up blog and hope to have lots of photos of fry to share with everyone. 

Thanks for reading and I hope ive inspired you to get down to your local stream with your kids to see what you can find.
Just check out mr Blue eyes!
The love nest is complete! Those white strings are the
glue produced by the Sticklebacks kidneys and is
mostly made up of protein

We had such a good day together. No iPads or phones.
Just good fun.

Our entire day was watched over carefully by the resident
swam family and their babies.

Both girls were fascinated by each thing we caught 

Ava was an expert by the end of the day

the view upstream

Anna loved getting her wellies wet

Friday, 1 June 2018

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Hi Guys,

As you know, I am a big fan of the Prodibio range of water treatments and whenever I am looking at setting up a new tank, I make sure I have the following three products on hand to insure my new aquarium goes swimmingly.

  1. Chloral Reset
  2. Start Up
  3. BioClean
Using each of these products in the order you see here makes setting us an aquarium easy and lets you focus on the fun part - which for me is the layout of the rocks and wood. Knowing my water is taken care of gives me peace of mind. Even once everything is up and running, all that I need to do to maintain a healthy aquarium is to remember to use Chloral Reset and BioClean when performing a water change - every two weeks.

Chloral Reset works by chloramines and chloral from your tap water. This protects the living organisms in your aquarium. This includes everything from your fish right down to the bacteria responsible for your biological filtration. These chemicals are added o tap water to kill bacterias that are dangerous to humans in order to make our tap water safe for drinking but these chemicals are very dangerous to aquatic life. Chloral reset comes in perfectly measured vials to make adding the exact amount a breeze. You can also use this on marine aquariums to protect your corals and live rock  from these chemicals.

The instructions state to perform a 1/3 water change every 15 days using Chloral Reset each time.

Start Up is made up of two products STOP AMMO START & BIODIGEST START. Stop Ammo Start is a natural plant extract that traps ammonia naturally without the need for further chemicals. Stop Ammo reduces the production of nitrite in your new aquarium. Pairing this with Biodigest Start which consists of lots of different helpful bacteria strains that effectively live of the waste matter in your aquarium) will reduce nitrates and phosphates and purify your aquarium water. I add the required dose of Stop Ammo and Biodigest just before I add my fish which is as soon as I get my aquarium water up to the desired temperature.

BioClean is what I add with every new water change. This maintains healthy water and helps the biological filter digest waste matter. It also keeps the nitrates and phosphates under control. Bioclean constsists of two elements BIODIGEST & BIOTRACE. BioDigest being the living bacteria and BioTrace being the trace elements needed to sustain aquarium life. BioTrace also contains sulphur which is great for live plants along with Iron which promotes healthy blood in your fish.

Now I know there are several other products, cheaper ones too. What makes Prodibio stand out is the way they are packaged. Each dose is contained in a small glass vial. This gives you the exact amount you require with no waste. The shelve life of each vial is about three years, even in direct sunlight. This is by far more value for money compared to bottled alternatives. Think about it, as soon as you open that bottle, the bacteria inside begins to die off unless it is added to your aquarium. With Prodibio, you use what you need and save the rest, unopened and contained in those little glass vials until you need to add more. It also takes up less space in the cabinet.

Why not give it a go yourself? I have a limited amount of samples available to UK readers so if you would like to try out all of the above, just email me.

If you have a tried and tested method you implement while setting up new aquariums, why not share with us in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Carl Bethell - What have you been up to?

A while ago, we interviewed one of our members and found out all about the rare South American cichlids he was keeping and the plans he had for his hobby. Today we meet back up with Carl to see just how his plans have come to fruition.

So Carl, You have been busy since our last interview. Tell us what you have been up to?

Yeah I’ve been really busy. The fish room is now up and running, still making a rack for the back wall but I have a few tanks running. The biggest being an 8x2x2 that I bought recently. The fish room came around at the right time really, as a few of my pairs have been breeding for me lately and I needed the space.

Step by step build of carls fish house
I enjoyed watching you build the fishhouse and it looks like you have put a lot of thought into it all. Did you plan the layout based on your existing livestock or did you have plans to try something new ?

Planiloricaria cryptodon have to be
one of the strangest catfish
I knew I wanted one large tank and some smaller tanks for breeding. I built it to the size I was allowed really. I wouldn’t plan around my stock because I’m always buying fish lol

8x2x2 is a decent size. you must have build a fairly big fish house to fit a mammoth tanks like that in there?

The layout was really planned around how much much room I was allowed. It’s roughly 12 feet long by 8 feet front to back. I planned it around the space I had. I wouldn’t plan around my stock because I’m always buying new fish ha ha.
The 8x2x2 is a great size tank. I learned a lot from getting a big tank. Plumbing in a sump and learning how it all works was a challenge.

I’ll bet. So how many tanks have you managed to squeeze in there?

Only 5 at the moment. Once I’ve finished building The rack I’ll be adding more.
It must be great to have all your fish in one place?
I still have a 6 foot tank in the living room. That tank has leopoldi and manacapuru angelfish, a pair of discus, iguana tetra, penguin tetra and a group of Planiloricaria cryptodon.
Geophagus pellegrini “atrato red”
I also have a 5 foot tank in my dining room. That has a pair of rare severums called Heros sp curare. It also has a trio of Geophagus pellegrini “atrato red” and a group of diamond tetra. 

Apart from those two tanks the rest are in the fish room.

Wow, they are some brilliant fish you have. I guess the big question is what have you put in the 8ft tank?

It’s only partially stocked at the moment. I’m still looking for something special. It currently has a group of Krobia xinguensis, Guianacara geayi, Crenicichla geayi and a single male Uaru amphiacanthoides. I also have a pair of L14 Scobiancistrus aureatus in there. Then there’s two Ctenolucius hujeta that I’m growing out in one of the smaller tanks that I’ll add in the future.

So are you going for a river style setup?

Uaru amphiacanthoides
I try and create as close to nature as possible for my set ups. My 6 foot has discus and angels. In this set up I have low flow, hanging rootwood and dim lighting. 
The 5 foot Geophagus and Heros tank has rocks, wood and faster flow as these fish are found in more open waters. 
The 8 foot has a medium flow, and large rootwood pieces. My scapes are often quite simple. It’s also worth noting that finding the appropriate looking pieces of wood for large tanks can be quite difficult

I remember your setups from our previous interview. simple but exactly what suits the fish in each tank. 

Having such a long swimming area must give your fish plenty space to let loose. do you notice any different behaviour with having this extra length that you might not have seen in the smaller tanks?

Yeah it’s definitely different having more space. The fish seem a lot more chilled in a larger tank. My Krobia would occasionally squabble and chase each other. Since moving to the 8 foot they seem to stick together for security.

A more relaxed fish means better everything all round.

Krobia xinguensis are right at home in
Carls 8ft setup
what about breeding?

I’ve had quite a lot since our last chat. Gymnogeophagus terrapurpura, Gymnogeophagus balzanii, Guianacara geayi and Krobia xinguensis have all bred for me. I just bought a pair of Heros sp curare that I’m hoping to breed as well

Well done! What’s been your biggest acheivement so far out of the above then? I definetly like the Krobia .

Yeah the Krobia are one of my favourite species so I’d say they were my biggest achievement so far. Hopefully I’ll get some luck with my Heros soon, that would be amazing

There can’t be many people with these in the Uk let alone breeding so it will be great to get success...

Your fish are not your average fish Carl, what’s the attraction?

I love different. It’s always nice to find something that isn’t common in the hobby. I’ve made some good friends that import or own great shops so it’s great to have the opportunity to keep rare fish

L14 Scobiancistrus aureatus 
The fishkeeping hobby is vey much a network . It’s what keeps it going I think.

Aside from building your fish house, what else is new for you?

Maybe need diving and seen more peacock bass or any other scuba trips?

Haven’t dived in a while now. I really need to sort out a trip to do some diving. I’d love to go to South America, do some diving and maybe do some fish collecting while I’m there.

A dream come true for many a Fishkeeper.

Borneo was where your previous dive was. Don’t you fancy a return trip?

I’d love to go back. I made some great friends out there at the research centre and at the dive centre. They are always looking for extra hands to help with their work, it’s just finding the time these days. I’m very busy with my children right now but would love to go back in the future

Your lucky to have those memories. 

What would you say had been your most memorable moment when it comes to fishkeeping ?

Having my Krobia xinguensis breed for me was a big achievement for me. They are one of my favourite species and it’s an added bonus for me that the group started the babies look really cute. But I’ve been quite lucky as far as memorable moments are concerned. Finishing the fish room and getting the 8 foot set up was a big moment for me, also took a lot of work. Moving a 35 stone tank definitely wasn’t easy and something I’ll never forget. I’ve also been lucky enough to find some rare fish over the last few years. So I have lots of great memories from the hobby, hopefully lots more to come
I’m sure you will. And lots to do with your new fish house too.

In the time you have been keeping fish, what changes have you seen? Peoples approaches, atritudes or trends?

I think there will always be two types of fish keepers. There will be those who just buy a tank and throw some fish in without a lot of thought. Then there are those that take the hobby seriously and really get swept away by it. 
As far as fish are concerned there’s a lot more variety these days. A lot more fish being introduced to the hobby and that’s great. Unfortunately there’s also this trend of hybridisation and manipulating fish that I really don’t approve of. Dying, selective breeding for special traits like short bodies, enlarged fins etc. It’s very pointless if you ask me. There’s a lot of natural beauty to be explored yet some still choose to manipulate natural species. For me the best aquariums are attempts at creating a natural environment for the species you keep. For me every tank I set up I try and give the fish a little piece of the amazon. I think a natural looking aquarium with wood, sand, leaf litter and natural occurring fish looks magnificent.

Couldn’t agree more. 

There is a big campaign right now supporting the natural biotope aquarium. An example of the hobby and industry working together for the greater good.

If you could make a difference in the hobby or industry, what would you like to achieve? A lasting legacy so to speak?

I try my best to educate others. I have my own group called Cichlid Central that offers advice to others in the hobby. I’m always doing my best to help others. Through my breeding projects I hope to introduce new rare species into my local area. I have several groups of wild caught fish that are breeding for me, hopefully this will encourage others in my area to be more adventurous when it comes to fish keeping.

Well Carl, Thanks again for sharing your fish with us. Good luck with all your upcoming projects and remember and share some photos with us over on facebook.

keep an eye out for more photos of Carls fish being uploaded in our Facebook group.

Remember folks, if you would like to be featured, or you know someone that would, just hit Feature Me for details

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Fish Shop Directory

Hi Guys

We have some great aquarium shops throughout the country. I thought it would be a good idea to list as many as possible in order to let people know about them. I asked the members of Lothian Fishkeepers Facebook group for suggestions and based on the feedback, I contacted the following stores and invited them to be listed in our 'Directory of Scottish Aquatics Shops'.

Our directory is by no means complete. There is no rating applied to any shops included and all shops have been suggested by members of our community. The aim is to offer our readers a workable list of  places to visit.

If you have any suggestions for the directory please email

Dobbies Garden Centre
Melville Nursery

Tel: 0131 6639814

  • Great saltwater section with lots of corals and fish species on sale
  • Wide selection of cold water & tropical fish available
  • Massive dry goods section
  • Dedicated system for freshwater inverts and Betta fish
  • Multiple display tanks running to showcase different styles

Pets & Aquarium Supplies
86 Quarry Street

Tel: 01698 282489

  • 3rd Generation family ownership 
  • Very Clean and well presented
  • Good all round selection of tropical fish 
  • Friendly and helpful staff

Dobbies Garden Centre
Drip Road

Tel: 01786 446131

  • Great selection display tanks up and running
  • Always has well stocked saltwater, tropical and cold water tanks 
  • Very nice range of Stendker Discus on offer
  • Friendly staff always ready to help

7 Tam’s Brig

Tel: 07462 379731

  • Free parking to the rear of the shop
  • Nice selection of Rift lake cichlids
  • Quality marine fish, corals & Inverts

Dunbar Garden Centre
Spott Road
East Lothian
EH42 1BF

Tel: 01368238038

  • Stunning 1000 litre display tank housing tiger shovel nose catfish, adult places and angelfish
  • Good range of Cichlids
  • A continuous display of 13 different Betta fish at all times

5 Croft Estate
Glasgow Road


Tel: 01324 849888


  • Large selection of dry goods
  • Stunning displays and modern design
  • Several odd ball species on offer
  • Voted top PFK top 40 retailer 2017
  • Great aquascaping section

Williamsons Garden Centre
West Lothian


Tel: 01506 811181

  • Friendly & knowledgeable staff
  • Good selection of tropical fish & freshwater shrimp
  • Aquascaping section
  • Voted top PFK top 40 retailer 2017
  • Healthy offering of pond fish available throughout the season

The Fin Room & Aquatics
242 Merry Street
North Lanarkshire

  • Free parking
  • Good selection of wild caught fish
  • Semi-aquatic section with Axololts, mudskippers, crabs and frogs
  • Rare & oddballs 
  • Great Betta fish selection