Emperor power filter media tricks and tips

The Emperor series of hang on back filters are an excellent choice for most aquariums. There is plenty of room for extra media and the spraybars help keep the biowheels in motion, a problem that the spraybar-less Penguins have. There are a few issues with the Emperor, however. One, the cost of media replacement is a bit on the silly side. It’s not that expensive, but there’s no need to pay for a whole new set of cartridges when only the carbon needs replacing. Then there’s the issue of how to get the carbon out when medicating the tank becomes necessary. Removal of the cartriges could spell disaster for the cycled tank that has taken so long to stablish. Finally, the fact that a lot of good bacteria grow on the filter cartridges is also a problem because the carbon must be replaced relatively frequently, thus destroying all the wonderful bacteria. With all this in mind, here are some solutions to these problems, solutions that could easily be adapted to other filters of similar design.

First, purchase your favorite brand of carbon. I prefer Diamond carbon, in the handy jar. If you want something other than carbon or a carbon mix, that’s fine as well. Taking a razor blade, make a slit through the blue floss material at the top of the cartridge. Best way is same-direction strokes to avoid too much ripping of the material.

Now, get a plastic bag, preferably in a garbage can, and shake carbon contents out. You will need to reach in with a spoon or your hand to dig out the carbon as well as tap the cartridge to loosen the granules. Eventually, most will come out. No need to remove all, it takes long enough just to get the majority out! Now, take a few spoonfuls of the carbon/chemical resin and pour it into the cartridge through the slit. Shake to distribute evenly.

Rinse out, IN DECHLORINATED WATER (otherwise the existing beneficial bacteria could be killed), and replace in tank. If slit is high enough, carbon will remain in cartridge until it’s time for another change. Now you can save all those beneficial bacteria until the cartridge is too beaten up to use After a few months, it will show wear and tear, the plastic may start to break as mine is, but so long as it’s intact and doing it’s job keep using it. A replacement will only be needed when the cartridge is damaged beyond usability. Carbon replacement can be done every month to two months, though your mileage may vary.

No need to change a cartridge if it’s clogged with fish wastes. Simply fill a large bowl with either tank water or dechlorinated tap water at a temperature near the tank’s temperature and swish the cartridge in the bowl, rubbing lightly to remove all extra particles. Filter will look much better and most of the bacteria will be intact.

The Emperors come with filter media baskets. USE THEM! You may stuff these with anything you desire, and it’s in your best interests to place anything you can in these baskets. In my Emp 400 baskets, I have ceramic biomedia in one and crushed coral in the other (not only does it provide a good surface for bacteria, but it raises pH and hardens my water which I need for the cichlids). This way, a good source of bacteria will build up on those cartridges. Keep them carbon-free! If the need to medicate the whole tank arises, remove the cartridges that contain carbon and leave the filter media baskets in place. These will maintain biological filtration. For mechanical filtration, floss can easily be stuffed in the place of the cartridges that were removed. When the treatment is finished, replace with NEW cartridges, as the bacteria would likely be dead by this point.

Rather than use the suggested Emperor filter cartridges, filter floss may be used as the mechanical filtration. One media basket can hold a fine mesh bag of carbon and the other basket can hold media of choice. This way, when medicating is required, all that’s required to remove is the basket containing the carbon.

These money- and bacteria- saving tips should definitely help out anyone who owns an Emperor or similar filter.

Decapsulating Brine Shrimp Eggs

Brine shrimp eggs are used throughout the world as a food for small fish in hatcheries. These eggs are really cysts which, if they are kept dry, can remain dormant for years before hatching. As soon as the eggs are exposed to water, the hatching process begins. When hatching brine shrimp eggs, we not only produce baby brine shrimp, but also the empty shells out of which they came, along with unhatched eggs. These are mixed in the hatching jar. The unhatched eggs and shells from the hatched eggs, must be separated from the baby brine shrimp since they are not digestible if eaten by small fish. If a small fish eats just a few of these shells or unhatched eggs, its intestinal tract may be blocked causing death. The process of separating the shells and unhatched eggs from the baby brine shrimp is quite time consuming, and sometimes hard to do effectively.

A process that is used in many hatcheries involves removing the outer layer (shell) of the eggs (decapsulating) with chlorine (household bleach), leaving the unhatched baby brine shrimp protected in a membrane. Besides making the harvest of the hatched brine shrimp easier, this process also:

  • Essentially sterilizes the eggs which may have disease organisms on the outer layer of the egg.
  • Can produce a higher percentage of hatching, since the brine shrimp no longer have to break through the hard outer layer of the egg. Allows you to feed even the unhatched eggs to fish, since the undigestible outer layer of the egg is no longer present.

Decapsulated eggs can be hatched immediately after treating them with chlorine, or can be stored in a saturated brine solution in the refrigerator for up to two months before hatching. This allows you to decapsulate large quantities of eggs, store them, and use small portions as needed. The brine solution dehydrates the eggs, effectively stopping the hatching process. The eggs will hatch normally when placed in a hatching solution of lower salinity water.

Note: The following is the procedure for decapsulating one pound of eggs. The amounts of water and Household bleach (chlorine) can be changed accordingly if you are working with more or less eggs.

You will need the following items:

  • A 3-gallon container with clear sides
  • 1 pound of brine shrimp eggs
  • 1 gallon of non-fragranced household bleach (5% chlorine)
  • Brine shrimp net or filter
  • Saturated brine solution*
    • * In 1 gallon of water, dissolve salt until no more can be dissolved and salt remains in the bottom of the container.

Steps in Process

  1. Soak 1 pound of eggs in 1 gallon of fresh water for 1 hour. Gently aerate the eggs. Periodically check to make sure that the eggs are not sticking to the sides of the container, above the water line.
  2. After the eggs have soaked in fresh water for 1 hour, add 1 gallon of non-fragranced liquid household beach (5% chlorine). Decrease the aeration to avoid foaming, while still mixing the eggs in solution.
  3. The eggs will turn white and then orange, and start to settle to the bottom. As soon as all of the eggs are orange, pour the contents through a brine shrimp net (or filter), and rinse in fresh water. Continue to rinse until all traces of bleach odor are gone. The time it takes for all the eggs to be decapsulated will vary with the type of eggs being used, so it is more important to observe the color change than to watch a clock.

Decapsulated eggs can be fed directly to fish that will eat them, or they can be hatched before feeding them to fish. Any eggs that you wish to store should be covered with the saturated brine solution, and stored in a refrigerator until needed.

Hatching Decapsulated Eggs
By removing the outer layer of the eggs, you will reduce their buoyancy, causing them to sink in water. This is important since a hatching system that works well for eggs with their capsules on, may not work for decapsulated eggs. Hatching containers should have steep sides to avoid the eggs settling on the sides, and aeration should come from the extreme bottom of the container. Cylindrical tanks with a steep cone in the bottom are ideal hatching containers.

Salinity for hatching should be around 20 parts per thousand which is equal to 1 pound of salt for each 6 gallons of water. Using a strong light over the top of the tank also helps the hatching process.

Decapsulated eggs hatch in 24-48 hours. The entire contents of the hatching container can then be drained through a brine shrimp net or filter and fed to your fish.

Special Note
Brine shrimp eggs come from many different sources. Some will react differently to this treatment, with some eggs taking longer than others to turn orange in the chlorine solution. However, the basics described above will work for any type of brine shrimp eggs.

You never know what you will find..

While I have been on Unemployment, I have had many hours to surf the net. Therefore, I have been using my time to find lots of useful information and goodies. You know me I love goodies. A very useful website is craigslist.com, to find fish tanks and aquarium items. Go to their main website, and them look under aquarium and also fish tank, as, people cannot spell aquarium. I have found many larger fish tanks and aquarium items for sale. Even Salt-water items are for sale. I found a person who has rocks and slate for sale. Please, Be cautious when using any website.

I was able to get a free 29 gallon set up and stand free, as the family just did not want it any more. I had to go and disassemble the tank. Which I did in an hour, I was also given the fish and food. The family was happy to get rid of the tank. I also belong to Freecycle, they are found within Yahoo groups. I found it is a great place to give and get items including free fish items.

Another activity I have done is to join the Erie Aquarium Society and CNYAS, Central New York Aquarium Society groups, they are also found within yahoo groups. This way I can keep informed on current events. I like the yahoo groups as you can email various members to get information. When you have time, check out the websites and see what you can find.

What is pH?

pH is what tells us whether the water is acid or alkaline.
pH below 7 is acidic
pH 7 is neutral <--- middle ground where it is neither basic nor alkaline

pH above 7 is alkaline

Congratulations! That’s all you need to know about pH!

Most fish can adjust themselves to water of different pH as long as it is not too much. If your tap water is around 7 it would be suitable for most fish.

It is better to keep your pH stable than to adjust it all the time because it is stressful (not stressful for you. stressful for the fish!). You need to monintor your aquarium’s pH so that you know when your aquarium pH crashes or shoots up. Most of the time, it is sudden change in pH that kills fish and not because the pH has gone out of the “fish’s pH range”.

One thing to note is that when pH rises, this change can impact on your water parameters. For example, when pH rises harmless ammonia changes to toxic ammonia! (another fish killer).

Weather Loach 101

Common Name: Weather Loach, Weatherfish, Dojo Loach, Pond Loach, Golden Dojo

Origin: Asia – China, Korea, Japan – Often found in streams, ponds and rice paddies.

Category: Bottom Feeders & Catfish

Diet:Omnivore; Sinking algae wafers, tubifex worms, flake food, vegetables, snails, other fish’s eggs.

Temperament: Peaceful fish that will not bother other fish, they will however eat the eggs of other fish. Friendly and can be seen at all times of the day, though it tends to be more nocturnal. The name “weather loach” is due to the erratic swimming patterns of the fish during drops in barometric pressure. These swimming patterns are like an underwater ballet, usually resulting in the fish diving down rapidly, and burying themselves in the substrate.

Care: It is recommended that you provide caves and other dark hiding places. The fish likes to burrow, so provide a fine, soft substrate. A fairly large tank is recommended, as the fish can reach 25 cm or more, but sizes of 12.5 cm – 20 cm are more common. I have one who is on the larger end of the spectrum, at 27 cm.

Temperature: Optimal Temperature is around 22C, but can survive anywhere from 15 – 27C. Cooler temperature tropical tanks will also support this fish.

Lifespan: Approximately 10 years.

pH: 6 – 7.5
gH: 9 – 15
Tank Region: Bottom mostly; mid tank during swimming

Gender: Sexing a Weather Loach is rather easy, the male’s pectoral fins are longer and thicker, giving the fins a triangular shape. Females have rounder pectoral fins. Males often appear to be standing up on their pectoral fins while resting on the bottom of the tank.

Breeding: Being a cold water fish, it requires cooler water in order to spawn. Breeding is very rarely accomplished in the aquarium.

Colors & Variants: Grey, Brown, Black, Spotted, Golden. Golden Dojo’s are not quite albino, more of pinkish color with yellow tint. They are available in most stores, and are sold as “Golden Dojo Loaches”. Spotted and Brown are usually called “Common Spotted Dojo” or “Weather Loach” at fish stores.

About: Weather or “Dojo” Loaches have an elongated, eel-like body and five sets of barbels. They have poor eyesight, and use the barbels to find food. If the barbels become damaged there is a high risk of starvation of this fish. For this reason a soft substrate, such as fine sand or soft edged rounded pebbles, should be provided as they are notorious diggers/burrowers. I also do not recommend having this fish in a tank with plants that require burried root systems, as they will dig them up all the time. They will be much better matched with plants that like free roots, such as Java fern, or other rhizome plants.

Weather loaches are scale-less fish and rough rocks such as lava rock should be covered with moss, to make it softer on the fish. Being a scale-less fish, they do not tolerate salt very well. If there is an illness or injury, do not add salt to try to help heal them. Instead, do frequent water changes, as good, clean, water will help them heal much better than salt. They are a very friendly fish, often eating from their owner’s hand and looking for attention. Mine swim around my hand during water changes, looking to be petted.

They are also known to be escape artists, so a tight fitting lid is key with these fish. You may also use a mesh top to make sure your loaches stay in the tank. Glass, mesh, or whatever you may have as lid, make sure there are no holes for the fish to escape from. They have the ability to jump out of the tank and spend the night on the floor.

Weather loaches are very hardy fish, if you do find your loach on the floor, place it back into the tank and add some Stress Coat or other “slime” coating product to help them. They have the ability to store oxygen in their intestines in cases of low oxygenated water, they can survive like this for a few days. Drying out is more of a concern then oxygen. In the wild they will encase themselves in mud to stay wet, and still have enough air to breathe if the stream dries up for a short time. Dojo Loaches can and will secrete a mucus to keep from drying out if they are out of water for some time.

When these loaches are in the wild, they are known to “walk” great distances to find another body of water. In Australia they are very often seen walking the roads of Queensland. The sale of Weather Loaches in Australia has been banned due to over population. In addition, it is not unusual to see your weather loach float up from the tail. This is nothing to be concerned about if the loach can pass out the excess air stored in the intestine; you will see a stream of bubble rise up out of the anus. It is a way of exhaling this stored air. The fish should then be fine. If you notice this happening for extended amounts of time such as days, there may be another problem such as a swim bladder illness.

Being a cold water fish, good tank mates include other dojo loaches (they like to be in groups). Goldfish also make good tank mates, providing you have a tank large enough to support them both. Cooler water tolerant Cory Cats, and cooler temperature tropicals also do well with dojo loaches. If cared for properly, this fish will bring you many years of joy. They really are a terrific addition to a home aquarium. They will bring fun and few laughs along the way as well.