Service and Maintenance


It’s impossible not to worry about your aquarium anytime you have to leave town, but there are several things you can to reduce the chances of anything going awry.

The overall goal is to leave your tank and its inhabitants in the best condition possible.  You will want to make sure your fish are well fed in the weeks leading up to your departure but you want to minimize feeding during the last days before you leave.  You want to minimize the amount of waste put into the tank while you are gone.  Fish poop and leftover food release toxins when they break down, so monitoring the feeding is important.  You will also want to do a water change and siphon the gravel to remove excess waste.  If possible, avoiding feeding while you are gone is the best option.  Most fish can go two weeks without being fed, and this will reduce the buildup of toxins in the water while you are gone.  Remember, we want to minimize the amount of waste in the tank to keep the water quality as good as possible while you are away.

If you will be gone for longer than two weeks, the easiest solution is to have a friend or family member feed your fish while you’re gone.  Make sure to be very clear with the feeding schedule, especially if your caretaker is not an experienced aquarist.  As we have mentioned, you want to minimize the amount of waste in the tank, so ensuring the fish are not overfed is very important.

If you don’t have the luxury of a caretaker and your fish HAVE to be fed while you are gone, an adjustable automatic feeder is the best option.  “Food pyramids” and other long term foods you leave in the tank are a big source for waste.  They break down quickly and do not feed your fish efficiently.  Good automatic feeders will let you set a schedule and adjust feeding amounts.  Controlling the schedule and feeding amount is necessary to reduce excess waste in the tank.


  • Feed fish well leading up to your trip
    - Minimize feeding right before you leave
  • Do a water change, being sure to siphon the sediment layer to remove waste
  • If you will only be gone short term, DON’T FEED (except special needs fish)
  • If you will be gone long, get a caretaker
    - Make feeding schedule/amount clear
  • If you will be gone long and can’t get a caretaker, programmable automatic feeder is best
    - Make sure you can adjust feeding amounts and schedule
    - Don’t use long term foods that you leave in the tank

Happy travels all!

December 26, 2016chris

Chris Jones



If you want to create a successful home aquarium  ecosystem, whether is is freshwater or saltwater, the number one thing  you will need is filtration.  Without filtration, you will be either spending a lot of time cleaning it yourself, or nothing will live.  Over the decades, home aquarists and Marine Biologist alike have adapted many different styles of filters; some simple, some complex.  But to make things somewhat simple, I’m going to talk about the three main stages of filtration; mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.  All three stages filter the water differently.

Mechanical Filtration is the process of physically removing the waste (i.e. fish poop, uneaten food, and plant material) particles from the water and is generally the first step in filtering your water.  This can be done a few ways; the main way is by using foam pads that have various thicknesses and different pore sizes.  These foam pads are placed where the majority of the aquarium water is pushed through the pad(s).  The pore size of the pad will determine what size of waste particles it catches.  The finest filter pad will catch the most particles, whereas larger pore size filter pads will only catch large debris particles.  Having your aquarium water pass through various filter pads with various pore sizes will help prevent buildup of excess waste particles.  Other mechanical filters that are commonly used are sponge filters, filter socks, sand or bead filters, and power filters.

Chemical Filtration is performed by activated carbon or other cleaning resins that pull dissolved organics from the water by absorption.  Activated carbon is made from high carbon content organic materials substances such as coal, wood, peat, or coconut shells.  It is created through the process of thermal decomposition; placing the substance in a furnace with such intense heat that the substance decomposes, which creates a substance that has a large surface area per unit of volume with a network of submicroscopic pores.  When used in clarifying water; the water is forced through the carbon, which chemically attracts pollutants to the porous walls of the carbon.

Biological Filtration is the most important of the three stages and only occurs when nitrifying beneficial bacteria grow and break down organic waste.  Without beneficial bacteria in your aquarium your fish will die, period.  Luckily, beneficial bacteria are one of those miracles of life that just appears out of nowhere as long as there is food for it to eat.  Biological filtration is basically just increasing the amount of porous surface area for the beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive.  They will grow on pretty much anything, from your mechanical filter pads to your gravel.  Other places you can provide for growth can be bio balls, ceramic or plastic beads, lava rock, bio tape, nitrate filters, and even live plants.

Mechanical and biological filtration are the keys to a happy and healthy aquatic habitat.  Chemical filtration is better used when it most needed and not at all times.  Activated carbon can’t tell what is a good dissolved organic versus a bad dissolved organic.  In cases like a reef aquarium or a planted freshwater aquarium there are a lot of nutrients that you need for coral or live plants to grow that the carbon would pull out.  We really recommend that you run carbon or other porous resins only when you absolutely need to; like after treating the aquarium with medication, after a water change to clarify water, or if you have an algae bloom and need to reduce your phosphate levels.

These are just the basics of aquarium filtration.  If you have any questions about any of the stages or products to use, we’re here!  Come on by and we will  show  you what will work best for your home aquarium!

- Sarah

 Sarah Firth







algae problem

Many customers are coming in to the store looking for a solution to their algae problems.  I am going to try and address the common causes of algae growth and offer some solutions to try and fix the problem.

Algae is a plant.  Plants need water, light, and nutrients to grow.  In an aquarium, there is always water so that means you need to control the light and nutrients.

Excess light is almost always the problem with algae growth.  If you leave the lights on for more than 8 hours a day without any plants in your aquarium, even with plants, it could cause algae growth from excess light.

The wrong temperature light could also be a problem.  Algae can use other light temperatures that plants won’t be as efficient in using, so make sure you have a plant-friendly light on your aquarium.  I use one 6700k Life Glo Flourescent over my 20 gallon long tank and it seems to grow the lower to mid level plants just fine. This light provides the plants with the right red and blue light they require for growth.

If you have the correct light and aren’t running it too long but are still getting algae in your aquarium, excess nutrients could be the problem. Excess nutrients come from a few different sources.

The easiest source to control is overfeeding. Everyone knows its fun to watch fish eat, which may cause a problem because we tend to overfeed to watch that behavior.

The extra food that falls to the bottom provides plenty of fertilizer for any plants that you would have but it also provides it for the algae.  So try to feed only what your fish will consume in a minute or two, and only once a day for most fish.

Another source of excess nutrients is sometimes your tap water.  Phosphates in tap water are a major cause of algae growth. The only way to know is to get your water tested for them.  This isn’t usually the problem but if you are doing everything right and you are still getting bad algae, it could be the case.

So let’s get to the solutions and fixes:

1. Only run your light between 8-10 hours per day and make sure it is the right temperature.

2. Don’t overfeed.

3. Water changes to get excess food and fish poop out of the gravel and water column.

4. Manually scrub it off.

5. Live plants, especially fast growing, will outcompete algae for nutrients.

6. Algae eating fish, shrimp, or snails.

An aquarium is an ecosystem, and everything has to be working together to make it perfect.  All of these solutions are equally as important and finding the balance between light, fertilizers, fish, and plants is really what you are striving for.

If you are having an algae problem, feel free to come in and we can help you figure out what is going on in your aquarium and try to set you up with the best solution.

AndrewJuly 1, 2014





While in our store the other day, I once again heard a customer express his opinion that “Africans” were “impossible” to keep long term because of their aggression. I would like to counter that belief. I have quite successfully kept Africans in my home tanks for years. Now I’m not saying they are aggression free, but there are several things you can control or adjust to lessen it. Over the years, I have employed the following actions to that end:

  • Attempt to overload it so that in essence they lose track of what fish they are upset at.
  • Provide over-abundance of suitable hiding/resting places.
  • When adding new fish, re-arrange often to eliminate territories.

I’ve also seen success with going in the opposite direction, to minimalize rock or decorations, so they constantly view each other. Some experimentation, patience, and observation will help. Remember, fish just like us are individuals and don’t always behave as generalities indicate. So don’t be so sure you can’t do it, you can!

February 5, 2014




Doing water tests at home is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to monitor the water quality in your tank. There are many different water tests available but the four main things that you should be periodically testing for at home are nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, and PH.

When fish waste and debris decay in your tank, they will create ammonia. That ammonia will be turned into nitrite, and then to nitrate by the beneficial bacteria that live in your tank. Ammonia and nitrite are very toxic to fish and can only be removed from the water when the beneficial bacterium converts them to nitrate. Nitrates must then be removed by doing water changes. Nitrate is a stable substance and will remain in the water until it is physically removed. With this in mind, we can use a nitrate test to tell when the breakdown of ammonia and nitrite (waste/debris) has accumulated in the water as nitrates, and do a water change if necessary.

If you are sure your tank is cycled, then testing for ammonia and nitrites all the time is not always necessary. In a cycled tank, the beneficial bacteria will be constantly converting these harmful substances into nitrates, never allowing them (ammonia and nitrate) to build up in the tank. If you test a cycled tank for ammonia and nitrites, the readings should always come out as zero. If the water tests positive for either ammonia or nitrite, that tells you that your beneficial bacteria colony is not large enough to keep up with the amount of waste in your tank. If this is the case, you should add a supplement of bacteria like Cycle or Microbe lift and continue to check your water daily until the spike of ammonia and / or nitrites has disappeared. Once you know your tank is cycled, the only tests you really need to worry about at home are nitrate and PH (unless you have reed tank). Testing your tank once every few days, or even once a week for nitrates will ensure that you are doing water changes often enough to keep your fish healthy. Ideally, the nitrates in a freshwater aquarium should stay at 40ppm and below (lower being better); and in a saltwater tank, they should stay as low as possible (0-10ppm), especially if you have corals, and / or invertebrates. Remember that doing water changes is the only way to remove nitrates from the water. Doing smaller water changes (15 – 25%) more frequently when the nitrates are reading in the 10-20ppm range, will be much more effective than a big water changes when the readings get high (40-80ppm). Once the nitrates get into the higher /unsafe ranges, it can be much more difficult to get them back down, and this can be very stressful on your fish. Testing your PH weekly, especially when doing water changes, can also help to monitor the quality of your water and make sure the PH is not swinging up and down. A stable PH is important for keeping your fish happy and stress free, so making sure the PH of your new water matches the PH of the existing tank water is important.

Water testing is a great way to stay ahead of problems in your tank. Fish living in environments with less than good water quality are more likely to have health problems and a lesser quality of life. We also test water here for free; all you need to do is bring in a sample. Water test kits for the home are also available and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have about them.

LaceyDecember 18, 2013



We now have new style aquariums in stock, varying from a 30gallon “half moon”, 25 gallon cube (frameless), 93 gallon cube (frameless), 37 gallon column (tall cube – framed). I’m confident that we can furnish a style and size tank that will accommodate your space and inhabitants requirements. Come on in and check them out!

December 18, 2013




Lighting can enhance your aquarium’s appearance and functionality. From standard fluorescent bulbs, high output T5 bulbs, compact fluorescent, and new LED assembles, you can improve how the aquarium looks, and achieve better growth of planted freshwater tanks and coral reef type tanks.

Like most things, lighting is being constantly improved by manufacturers. Come in today to talk with one of our staff about your lighting needs.

November 09, 2013




Aqua Serene would like to give a shout out to Dr. Barta at Dentistry for Children. Dr. Barta gives young people the opportunity to have a positive experience at their dentist’s office, contradicting the often times, misconstrued notion that going to the dentist is something children get nervous about. Dr. Barta creates a space that the children actually look forward to coming and seeing the fish. Aqua Serene has kept up a 225 gallon tank at Dr. Barta’s Dentistry for the past 25 years. Many young people have had their first positive aquatic experience sitting in front of the amazing saltwater tank that our fish specialists work hard at maintaining. These fish tanks are still bringing children the same positive experience today. A trip to Dr. Barta’s office is like going to the public aquarium and Toyland all at the same time. Dr. Barta’s office is  located at 2215 Willamette St. in Eugene, Oregon.



Formulate a plan to achieve the desired result.

A.  Type of tank:
Freshwater or marine, fish only, planted marine with few corals, reef tank with few fish

B.  Budget:
Realistic idea of money spent for tank desired
Minimum equipment required
Addition equipment later as system gains maturity and/or heavier fish loads

C.  Achieving initial cycle:
Adding beneficial bacteria
Initial maintenance and testing
When tank immature, clean all non replaced filter media in your existing  aquarium
water to reduce beneficial bacteria die off (drain out bucket of your aquarium water
from tank) for this purpose.

D.  Ask us at Aqua Serene any questions about any concerns as we desire for you to be
successful. This is why we are here.

E.  Enjoy and have fun!

July 14, 2013



Whether you have a glass, acrylic, or Plexiglas aquarium there is a right and wrong way to clean it. Acrylic and Plexiglas aquariums are a type of plastic, because of that they are much softer and easier to scratch than glass. But by using the wrong tools you can still scratch your glass aquarium pretty easily.

When purchasing algae scrubbers for an acrylic or Plexiglas aquarium, you need to make sure you choose the scrubber made just for acrylic. They are much softer and finer than the scrubbers for glass aquariums. Even though the algae you are battling is tougher to get off, do not use the tougher scrub pad. Using the wrong pad can result in micro-scratches that give the aquarium a hazy look to it. The only way to fix this is to break down the tank completely and buff it out with the proper tools. Which we do sell here at the Aqua Serene, but it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to not make the mistake in the first place.

If you are having a problem with the tougher algae growing on your aquarium, we do sell plastic blades. These are basically a plastic version of a metal razor blade. Using one of these on acrylic or Plexiglas will prevent you from slicing huge gashes into your aquarium. But you still need to be careful not to press to hard, because you still can damage your aquarium.

As for glass aquariums, you can use metal razor blades and the rougher algae scrub pads. But do not use any steal wool or any other kitchen/multi-use tools, for they will definitely leave your aquarium with unwanted scratches.

Sarah FirthMay 18, 2013



As we transition from summer and all its outdoor activities into fall and more indoor related activities, this would be a good time to “catch up” on your indoor aquarium maintenance needs. Be sure to readjust heaters. For instance, if you lower the setting on your heater during the summer months, you may want to raise it a bit as it begins to get colder. Clean any algae build up as this can reduce effectiveness and accuracy.  Inspect your pumps for fins missing or scoring on the impeller as these can reduce its performance level. Clean any slime present for the same reasons. For any who have open-top systems, you may need to note a change in evaporation rate and adjust top-off schedules.

As always, we at Aqua Serene want you to be successful in your fish keeping endeavors by providing expert advice and having available quality related equipment and livestock.  Please enjoy our newly expanded store hours for your convenience.

October 25, 2012



I recently introduced medium to large black neons into one of my customer’s community tanks. I’m very pleased with the outcome!

Black neons have a striking appearance, and their schooling properties were a nice contrast to the existing fish, increasing the activity level. I feel they make a nice addition and are more unique than their counterparts, such as cardinal neons.

June 28, 2012



There are several filter types available for aquarium use.

The oldest and most economical is the undergravel filter. However, it is very outdated in today’s aquarium hobby. The disadvantage of an undergravel filter is the buildup of debris underneath the plate, which is virtually impossible to siphon out. This style of filter also provides no housing for different types of filtration media. We feel there are more efficient and advanced ways to filter your aquarium.

A great filter option is the hang-on-the-back filter. This filter is still easy to maintain, and all the components are accessible from the top. It still requires occasional cleaning of parts and media to ensure good flow and operation.

Another commonly used filter is a canister type filter. These units require the same cleaning of parts and media, but have some significant differences from the hang-on-the-back filter. For instance, they remove water from the tank to a unit which usually is installed underneath the aquarium. The unit will then pump the filtered water back up to the tank. This type of filter is larger, but easier to hide as it can go under a tank and behind a stand. These types of filters are generally quieter, house more water volume, and accommodate more filtration media.

The last form of filtration system is usually used in a marine application, but would also benefit a large freshwater aquarium. This filter is called a wet/dry sump filter. These involve more plumbing but afford you the most versatility in media choice.

I’d love to help you out with your needs and questions concerning filtration systems.

April 27, 2012



When purchasing and setting up an aquarium, carefully consider what kind of end result you’re looking for. A little forethought will save you money and time in the long run!

Formulate a plan in regards to what fish you want to keep, how large they will grow, their particular requirements, etc. Talk with a professional (any of us here at Aqua Serene) about your expectations and what is feasible.

Size of tank and equipment are paramount in achieving the desired outcome. Consider things like location, how much time you are willing to dedicate to maintenance, and how much money you are able to spend on a monthly basis.

An attractive, vibrant aquarium can be a nice addition to any setting- but a poorly conceived and maintained one can detract and cause aggravation. Your enjoyment will be a direct result of your efforts and an informed, well-conceived plan.

The staff at Aqua Serene looks forward to helping you in this endeavor.

April 20, 2012



The importance of consistent, regular maintenance cannot be overstated! Once an aquarium is established (meaning a complete nitrogen cycle has been obtained), with a little effort and consistency, a tank can be maintained and enjoyed for years.

As a fish keeper, it is your responsibility to provide a proper environment for your fish. Things that affect this closed environment are controllable, and for the most part commutative. As an example, if you generally change too little water during maintenance, at first it has little impact; over time, however, the pollutants build up and oxygen decreases. And, the results can be seen in higher fish loss, algae accumulation and poor general health of inhabitants.

It is far better to be ahead of a system than behind. When the interval and amount of water changed is correct for the size of tank and respective fish load, the results are a better looking and functioning aquarium.

In our store, we have every product to make your tank cleaning effective and easy. If you are in the market for any supplies, we would be happy to demonstrate how to use them.

April 13, 2012



When combating algae conditions in ponds, a natural alternative to chemicals is the use of barley straw.

The three common algae types are surface algae, string algae and suspended algae.

Surface algae, which stay very short and generally adhere to rocks, liners, etc., are actually beneficial to pond life.

String algae, however, can grow into long filaments which (besides being unsightly) can suffocate plants and clog equipment such as pumps and filters.

If left unchecked, suspended algae can be very unsightly and raises ammonia and nitrite levels which endanger livestock.

When barley straw is placed in water, it begins to decompose, releasing hydrogen peroxide which inhibits algae growth. Please stop in our store to talk with us about when and how to take advantage of this natural product.

March 23, 2012




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