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Marine Aquaria and
Miniature Reefs

Dynamic Aquaria : Building
Living Ecosystems

Handbook of Fish Diseases

Aquaria Glossary

Actinic Lights - A fluorescent light that emits blue light (the color of the ocean water
below 10 meters) which is beneficial to marine life.

Activated Carbon - Used in the aquarium filter to remove impurities from the water and
keep it clear. It is also used to absorb and remove medicines used in the aquarium 
after the treatment is finished. Carbon should be changed regularly to keep it from
leaching impurities back into the water.

Air Pump - An electro-mechanical pump used to supply air to air stones, lift tubes, 
and decorations.

Air stones - Used with Air pumps, they increase the oxygen content of the aquarium
water by disrupting the surface to prevent a film covering which prohibits the proper 
gas exchanges.

Algae - Plant like organisms that grow underwater usually produced by too much light,
too much phosphate, and/or overfeeding.

- Sometimes called Carbonate Hardness. The amount of your aquarium water's
ability to resist changes in pH. The alkalinity can be raised by using a buffer such as
baking soda. Alkalinity is usually expressed in PPM (parts per million) or dKH (German
degrees of hardness).

Ammonia - A by-product of fish waste (NH3) which is toxic to fish at almost any
detectable level. Ammonia is only present at a pH of 7.0 or higher. Below 7.0 it is 
present in the form of ammonium which is not toxic.

- (NH4) A by-product of fish waste in water below a pH of 7.0.

- An area of water without dissolved oxygen.

Artemia - brine shrimp.

Biological Filter - A filter which uses bacteria to breakdown waste in the water into
substances which are less or not at all toxic.

Bio Wheel
- A rotating paddle wheel type device that provides excellent wet/dry filtering.

Brackish - Partly salty water. Water in between freshwater and marine.

Brine shrimp
- Small shrimp used as live fish food. Sometimes called Sea Monkeys.

Bubble Filter
- An internal filter which uses lift tubes to draw water thru a foam pad.
Corner sponge filters fall in this category.

- A substance added to the water to increase the alkalinity. Increasing the buffer
will also increase the pH.

Canister Filter
- An external filter using hoses and a pump to cycle the water from the
aquarium thru the canister filled with different types of filter media.

Carbon - See Activated Carbon above.

Carbon Dioxide - (CO2) Used by plants as a nutrient. Can also be used to lower the pH
of water.

Carbonate Hardness
- See Alkalinity above.

Chemical Filter
- A filter that utilizes a chemical media such as carbon to clean the

- A device used mainly in saltwater aquariums to cool the water.

- A chemical sometimes used by municipal water treatment facilities in 
place of chlorine since it is more stable in water and will not evaporate. This is very 
toxic for fish and should be removed using a dechlorinator that can also remove
chloramine as well as chlorine.

- A chemical substance used by municipal water treatment facilities to 
eliminate bacteria from the water supply. This is toxic to fish and should be removed
using a dechloranator, aerating, or by letting the water stand in an open container for 
24 hrs.

Cichlid - A family of aggressive freshwater fish found in South America and Africa.

Deionizer - A device that filters tap water prior to aquarium use.

Diatom Filter - A mechanical filter that uses diatomaceous earth to remove fine particles
from the water.

- A cichlid from South America. The King of freshwater fish!

Egglayer - Fish that give birth by laying eggs, as opposed to a livebearer.

Filter - A device used to clean the aquarium water. The three basic types are
Mechanical, Chemical, and Biological. All three types of filtering should be used 
in your aquarium.

Fluidized Bed Filters
- A vertical tube filter containing sand-like media. A swift 
upward moving column of water suspends the media and provides a large surface 
area for bacteria. This provides excellent biological filtering.

General Hardness
- The measure of calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) ion
concentrations dissolved in water.

Heater - A device used to heat the aquarium water.

Hydrometer - A device for measuring the specific gravity of a marine tank.

Invertebrates - Animals without a backbone.

Killifish - A family of freshwater fish that have a life span of only one year.

Lifttube - Mainly used with under gravel type filters. Bubbles are produced at the 
bottom of the tube and as the bubbles rush upward they pull the water in the tube
 with them creating a circular water flow.

- Fish that give birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

Live Rock - Rock that has been taken from a coral reef that contains life intact on them.

Mechanical Filter
- A filter that removes particles from the aquarium water by using a
mechanical device such as fiber bags, or another floss type material.

Metal Halide
- Lamps that produce very hot and very bright light. Used as an artificial 
sun for reef tanks.

- The process where ammonia is converted to nitrite, and then to nitrate.

- (NO3) This is a non-toxic product of the nitrogen cycle. Although not a critical
problem in freshwater tanks, reef tanks should be kept below 10 ppm.

Nitrite - (NO2) This is a toxic product of the nitrogen cycle and should be kept as low 
as possible at all times.

Nitrogen Cycle
- This describes how fish waste is broken down in the aquarium. Waste
decomposes as toxic ammonia (NH3). Nitrsomona bacteria convert the ammonia into
toxic nitrite (NO2). Nitrobacter bacteria then breaks down the nitrite into non-toxic 
nitrate (NO3). This nitrate is then removed from the aquarium by performing partial 
water changes.

- This is a form of dried moss usually used to soften and lower the pH of the
aquarium water.

- Indicates how acidic or alkaline your water is. Stands for "the power of Hydrogen".

Power Filter
- A filter that usually hangs on the back of your tank and contains a built 
in pump that draws water up an intake tube from the aquarium into and thru the filter, 
and then poured back into the tank.

Power Head
- A submersible pump normally used with under gravel filters.

- (Reduction-Oxidation) A measure of how easy it is for organic reactions to 
take place. This indicates overall water quality.

Reverse Osmosis - (RO) A process to filter tap water before using in the aquarium.

Reverse Under gravel Filter
- This filter runs opposite to a normal under gravel filter where
it pushes water up thru the gravel bed. This requires less of a filter cleaning effort.

Sponge Filter
- A filter that provides mechanical and biological filtration. The filter
consists of a lift tube connected to a power head that draws water thru the sponge 
block removing waste and growing bacteria.

- A trace element necessary for corals and clams to grow.

Trickle Filter - A wet/dry filter where water is dripped over a plastic media which is also
exposed to the open air. This promotes very good bacterial growth.

Ultraviolet Sterilizer - A tube like device where water passing thru at a very slow rate,
allows the ultraviolet light rays to radiate the water and kill any existing bacteria,
protozoa, fungi, or parasites. 

Under gravel Filter
- (UGF) Basically it is a perforated plate which is placed under 
the aquarium gravel. Water is drawn thru the gravel, thru the plate, up thru lift tubes, 
and finally sprayed back on top the aquarium water.

Wet/Dry Filter
- This is a biological type filter with plastic media exposed to the air
in order to promote bacterial growth.


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