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Fish Terminology

by Brett aka Crabros

Hi All,

I have been in the hobby for along time now just over 15 years and was amazed at all the fish terminology. I didn’t understand it at first but over the years in the fish hobby I learnt what most of these fish people were talking about.

I have compiled a list of different things you hear in this hobby and would like too share them with you. I hope they will help you out now that you are just beginning in this wonderful hobby of keeping fish.

Acidic – term used to describe water with a low ph: less than 7.

Activated carbon – is a filter medium which adsorbs dissolved wastes.

1. Remember too remove carbon when you are using medications to treat your tank.

2. Activated carbon also removes milky or brown colored water from your tank you will hear people saying it polishes the water. It can turn your tank crystal clear in a matter of hours.

3. With carbon it is only good for 6-8 weeks before you have to replace it.

Adipose – is the small fin, which is situated between the caudal and dorsal fin. This is not present on all fish.

Airation – air going into the tank which causes agitation at the water surface allowing the transfer of oxygen into the water.

Alkaline – term used to describe water with a high ph: more than 7

Ammonia – a toxic compound made up of nitrogen and hydrogen.

It is also the first stage of the nitrogen cycle. This is caused by overstocking your tanks with fish or over feeding. What happens is the good bacteria in the filter overloads and cannot keep up with the breakdown of wastes. Ammonia is also responsible for new tank syndrome where the filter hasn’t got enough good bacteria to breakdown waste products causing your tank to turn toxic in a short period. With new tank syndrome you will notice milky cloudy water in your tank. Main cause of Ammonia fish waste. You can break this cycle by doing regular water changes. You can buy an ammonia test kit to check if you have this problem.

Anal fin – single fin underneath the body.

Artemia nauplii – newly hatched brine shrimp.

Bacterial Starter Culture – it is used to mature biological filters more quickly in new tank setups. You can buy this from your local aquarium shop.

Biological Filtration – is a filter which uses bacteria to break down toxic nitrogenous compounds.

Blood worms – are not really worms but larvae of midges and are red in color. Midges are a delicate fly resembling mosquitoes but are daintier and have less offensive habits. Can cause Malawi bloat if overfeed on these.

Bogwood – used to decorate the tank. (Some woods have tannins in them which turn your water brown. You can use activated carbon to remove it. Remember to clean all woods before placing into your aquarium.

Brackish – a mixture of saltwater mixed with fresh. Adding rock salt to aquariums can turn water slightly brackish.

Brineshrimp – is a small crustacean used as a live food.

Caudal Fin – tail fin.

Caudal Peduncle – where the tail fin joins the body.

Chlorine – chemical used to disinfect tap water.

Remember to use a water ager like prime to remove chlorine before adding water to tank.

Canister Filter – is an external filter which has an in inlet valve at the top of the filter it takes water into the pump. The water travels through the filter medium back out into pump to be returned via the hose pipe fitted with a spray bar to return clean water and air rate the water which has been filtered. Inside the filter are good bacteria to help with the breakdown of waste matter so you don’t get ammonia problems.

DH – German measure of water hardness. 1 dh = 17.99 PPM

Daphnia – a freshwater crustacean also called a freshwater flea used as live food.

Detritus – solid waste matter found on the tank bottom.

Dorsal Fin – large fin in the middle of the fishes back.

Fin Rot – disease in the fins caused by bacteria where the fins rot away.

Flake – fish food. There is a lot of different flake on the market. E.g. Osi , HBH , Wardley’s

Freshwater – contains no salt.

Fry – baby fish.

Fungus – disease that looks like a piece of cotton wool on the fish this is usually signs of a secondary infection.

General Hardness – is the amount of dissolved minerals in the water.

Micro worms – small worms used for live fry food. To grow your colony of these all you need is a Tupperware dish with a few holes in the lid some rolled oats slightly damp all over and a colony of micro worms. After you add the initial starter colony it takes between 3-7 days before the micro worms start to be seen on the side of the container after about 4 weeks you start another colony. Downside sometimes they smell but a great food source for fry.

Neutral – term used to describe water with a ph of 7.

Nitrate – formed by ammonia and nitrite which have been broken down by the filter bacteria; can also be found in tap water. This is the last stage of the nitrogen cycle. You can buy an nitrate test kit to check if you have this problem. Remember water changes can help you eliminate this problem.

Nitrite – toxic waste compound from the breakdown of fish waste. This is the second stage of the nitrogen cycle. You can buy an nitrite test kit to check if you have this problem. Remember water changes can help you eliminate this problem.

PH – is a scale of measurement for acidity and alkalinity in water. You can buy a ph test kit or ph pen from your aquarium shop.

Parasite – an animal that lives of another.

Pectoral – the first two fins behind the fish’s head.

Pelvic Fins – this is located on the bottom of the fish, in front of the anal fin.

Quarantine – new fish being isolated for a period of time so diseases won’t effect the rest of your stock in another tank.

Runners – plant growths similar to roots which carry new plant shoots.

Secondary Infection – when your fish contacts a disease as a result of a previous alignment. Fungus is a typical form of secondary disease.

Sediment – waste matter which falls to the bottom of your tank.

Substrate – the medium which covers the bottom of your fish tank. E.g. Gravel, Sand

Test Kit – these are used to monitor your ph, general hardness GH, KH Carbonate hardness in you aquarium.

Variety – belonging to a species, could be distinguished by a different pattern, color or finnage.

Vinegar eels – live in vinegar and congregate at the surface. To get the colony thriving you place a piece of apple into the jar add half water/apple cider vinegar to the mix then add some vinegar eels from someone with a colony and after a couple of day there will be millions of them and bingo perfect fry food.

Whitespot – Commonly known as Ick is one of the most common diseases of fish and is very infectious. Fish breaks out in little white spots on the body and fins. This disease is caused by a parasite. Can be treated with protozon or Ickway you can also turn up the heater abit or add a little rock salt.

I hope these help you guys out.

Happy fish keeping


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