Meet Polypterus, The Dinosaur Eel!

Have you always dreamed of having your own pet dinosaur? With a polypterus, you can!… Sort of. This ancient fish first appeared during the Cretaceous period over 60 million years ago, alongside pterosaurs, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Modern day polypteridae include erpetoichthys calabaricus, also known as the reed fish or rope fish, and the dozen or so members of the family erpetoichthys polypterus commonly known as bichirs.

Polypterus can be identified by its long, snake-like body and the multiple dorsal finlets along its spine that inspired its name (polypterus means “many fins”). Its large pectoral fins give it a distinctive way of swimming. Tough ganoid scales protect it from infection and parasites. It is not difficult to meet a polypterus’ needs, and it is a fairly popular choice for the home aquarium.

Meet Polypterus, The Dinosaur Eel! - Big Al's Pets

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for your polypterus, keep in mind that even smaller varieties can grow to be over a foot long. Some species, including the red bichir and the fat-headed bichir, can be two feet long, and the mammoth Congo bichir can grow to over three feet. A 48 x 15-inch tank is sufficient for smaller fish. For larger varieties, a 6 x 2-foot tank is more appropriate.

Polypterus are bottom dwellers, so ample floor space is essential. Choose a shallow tank with a large footprint so your fish can roam the bottom but still reach the top easily. These fish have a modified swim bladder that enables them to supplement their oxygen with gulps of air from the surface, so make sure to leave an air gap between the water and the cover of your tank. Secure the tank cover well, as these fish are master escape artists.

These fish are hardy and can tolerate variation in the quality and temperature of their water, but they will be most comfortable in soft to slightly hard water that is neutral or slightly acidic and kept at a temperature between 25 and 28°C (77-82 °F).


Choose a substrate that is easy to keep clean, such as soft aquarium sand or horticultural silver sand. Arrange smooth rocks and large pieces of wood to create caves for your fish to slink in and out of. If you plan to have more than one bichir, prevent them from becoming territorial by providing a hiding place for each one. Use robust plants to provide cover, as this species’ poor eyesight makes it clumsy and prone to damaging more delicate varieties.

Diet and Nutrition

Because of its poor eyesight, the polypterus relies on its sense of smell to seek out its food. This carnivore enjoys many foods, including:

  • Meaty foods, including mussel, prawn, shrimp, cockle, whitebait, beefheart and silversides
  • Live foods, including guppies, minnows, earthworms and ghost shrimp
  • Frozen foods, including bloodworms, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, squid, krill and silversides
  • Sinking catfish pellets
  • Algae wafers
  • Sinking granular foods

Tank Mates

Polypterus are not aggressive but will eat smaller fish if given the opportunity. They may also snap at one another, particularly when fighting over food, but typically do not cause any real harm. They should be tanked with non-aggressive fish of a similar size, such as Siamese tigerfish, knifefish, tinfoils and medium-sized catfish.

Polypterus are a fascinating fish that provide a window into a long-ago time. Find everything you need to add this ancient creature to your tank at Big Al’s.


Big Al’s Big Value – Fishkeeping Can Be Affordable!

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You don’t need to break the bank to afford to keep a basic aquarium. Big Al’s believes that premium quality basics like water conditioners, filter media, fish food, and maintenance tools shouldn’t have to cost you a flipper and a fin. That’s why we’re doing our part to make home aquarium keeping more affordable for all of our customers with our own Big Al’s brand product line!

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Big Al’s supplies aspiring fishkeepers with all of the necessities – we’ve reached out to our vendors and worked closely with them to bring you the absolute best value possible on products of the kind of reliable quality that we’re comfortable with putting our name behind. As aquarists ourselves, we know that you’d rather pay for substance over style, and we also know what your aquarium needs and what it doesn’t. That’s why we’ve trimmed off the unnecessary excess to keep our products simple and priced low, opting instead to let our customers pocket those savings.

Big Al’s products can help you:

  • Make your tap water safe and biologically rich
  • Keep your fish well-fed and happy
  • Maintain beautiful, lush looking plants
  • Preserve the health of your filtration system
  • And retain the natural, crisp beauty of your aquarium

All of which are why Big Al’s brand tools, foods, treatments and media are the perfect low-cost solutions for beginner and experiences aquarists alike.



Our water treatment system will make your tap water safe by neutralizing harmful chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals, all while giving your fish a comfy coat of aloe for protection. This system also helps breathe life into your water by boosting the beneficial bacteria responsible for the breakdown of fish wastes. Using this treatment will help safely digest detritus to keep your aquarium and filter clean.

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Big Al’s filter media maintains our core philosophy of keeping things simple and effective. Water polishing filter media needs to be replaced often, as it is responsible for keeping your water looking crystal clear. We know that means you’re going to need to change it frequently, so our plush sheets of cut-to-fit filter floss are sold in bulk sizes in order to keep that filter flowing full force, rather than trying to stretch extra time out of your clogged filter pads. We also carry foam inserts in various sizes to take care of larger waste particles and prevent the floss from becoming clogged too quickly.

Shop Big Al's Branded Tank Scrubber Sponges


We carry the basic tools you need for aquarium maintenance, and we build them for strength, durability, and longevity, all while using only aquarium safe materials. Tackle water changes and clean your gravel simultaneously using our Gravel Cleaner, then refill that aquarium using a 100% fish safe Big Al’s bucket! You’ll also want to give your tank’s glass a quick scrub, and we’ve got you covered with our durable tank scrubber sponges.

Shop Big Al's Branded Multi-Purpose Aquarium Plant Supplements


Your fish need full bellies, and a healthy, balanced diet will help them thrive. The basis of every quality diet for your fish is a hearty staple food, and Big Al’s flake food is formulated to satisfy the nutritional necessities of a wide variety of tropical fish. Big Al’s Staple Flake food is packaged in a simple, re-sealable ‘zip’ bag to lock in freshness and save your wallet from pricey containers. This food is sold in bulk 8 oz packages to stretch that dollar even further. We’ve also considered your tank’s environment, and we have a fantastic plant food supplement to ensure any aquarium plants grow tall, strong, and lush to keep those beautiful fish of yours feeling right at home!

Sure, our products might be simple, and they may not have a bunch of bells and whistles, but that’s exactly how we bring quality and value together without any fishy business! Or wait, fish is our business… Well, you know what I mean!



A Step-By-Step Guide To Opening Your Pond

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Step 1: Address Structural Concerns

Take some time to examine your pond feature and its immediate surroundings for damage. Winter weather conditions can cause a surprising amount of damage even to relatively durable elements such as rocks and paving cobbles. Repair or replace any damaged items such as pond liners. This will ensure that the environment is safe for plants, animals, insects, birds, and people.[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Black Silicone 10.1 oz[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Firestone Quickseam Pond Liner Repair Kit[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Liner Patch 6 inch[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 2: Clean your Pond Environment

Even if your pond and its immediate surroundings have simply been under snow all winter, a lot of cleaning will need done before any new features can be added. A thorough cleaning will remove any dirt, bits of trash, natural debris, and any decaying matter that can produce toxic ammonia as temperatures rise. Cleaning is also important because it discourages activity by pest species that might damage the pond in its sensitive early stages of life. Pond vacuums are very helpful when cleaning the environment after winter inactivity. Small ponds can be manually cleaned without much difficulty. Many pond owners also use natural enzymes and bacterial additives to assist with cleaning, but we’ll get to that shortly.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Python Ulti-Vac Pond Maintenance System[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]TetraPond Telescoping Pond Net[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Micro-Lift Oxy Pond Cleaner 2 lb[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 3: Service & Start your Pump

The pump is essentially the heart of your pond, pumping vital oxygen-rich water and making sure that your fish and plants get the circulation and aeration they need to thrive. Making sure your pump is running in tip-top shape is vital for the health of your pond. Select a time when you will be home for several hours so you can keep an eye on the pump during its initial period of operation. A little time is required to ensure that the water is being moved when it needs to be. This is the best time to detect any problems, so it is worth setting aside an afternoon to run the water pump for the first time. Before you plug the pump in, it is best practice to open up the pump and service the impeller, shaft, and well. The impeller assembly can become quite dirty from the previous pond season, collecting films and debris around the impeller that can cause the pump to run slower, run hotter, or stop running all together. A quick cleaning with a filter brush kit, or replacement of a damaged impeller will insure that your pump runs smoothly all season long. If for some reason your pump is no long working at all, it may be time for a new pump.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]TetraPond Debris Handling Pump DHP4200[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Pondmaster Mag-Drive Pond Utility Pump Model 9.5[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape AquaForce Solids Handling Pump 2700[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 4: Start your Filter

First, you will need to open up your filter and replace the old mechanical media such as sponges/foam blocks and floss pads; having a new mechanical media will ensure that your filter has optimal flow, and that no detritus or waste is being re-circulated into your pond. Be sure to also clean the biological filter media if your system has not been used in a while, so that the beneficial bacteria has the most clean surface area possible to colonize.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]TetraPond Filtration Fountain Kit FK6[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]TetraPond Waterfall Filter[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape UltraKlean Biological Pressure Filter 2000[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 5: Boost your Beneficial Bacteria

Once this is done, you can boost the health of your bacteria colonies. In fact, this should be done even if the pump has been used all winter. There are several great products available that can be used to boost the effectiveness of your beneficial bacteria. Biological cleaning agents help prevent the growth of harmful or excessive entities. The right additives will help maintain an optimal balance of microbes to ensure a healthy pond environment. Some pond owners like the convenience of automatic dosing systems. This can be a good solution for periods of time when you have to be away from home. Dosing your pond environment with the right biological additives is an important part of maintaining its health throughout the year.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Crystal Clear Biological Clarifier + Sludge Remover 2 lb[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Cold Water Beneficial Bacteria 1 gal[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Microbe-Lift PL 32 fl oz[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 6: Begin Testing your Water

Once your water pumping and filtration systems have been repaired and cleaned, and your pond has been prepped for the season, it’s time to test the chemistry of the water. Use your preferred water testing kit to monitor levels of nitrite and ammonia. Your tests should indicate zero nitrite and ammonia. If the test displays an amount of either of these substances, perform a partial water change and redo the test. Repeat these steps until ammonia and nitrite are both absent.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]API Pondcare 5-in-1 Pond Test Strips 25 pk[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape KH/Alkalinity Test Kit 60 Tests[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Submersible Pond Thermometer[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 7: Add Fish & Plants

Once your water system is operating optimally, you can begin thinking about the fish and plants that will be added to the environment. Conditioning animals and plants to the environment takes a little additional time, so be sure to anticipate this when determining your spring pond opening timeline. It is important to make sure that your pond’s water chemistry and temperature have both stabilized before you move forward with stocking (65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal range). You’ll also want to make sure that you have the appropriate foods on hand for your new fish and plants, along with the tools needed to move them into the pond. Don’t overstock, and be sure to test your water 1 – 2 times per week after stocking to ensure safe conditions for your pond inhabitants. If ammonia and/or nitrite levels test above safe parameters, doing 25% water changes and adding beneficial bacteria cultures is recommended. Lastly, if you’re planning a vacation, be sure to invest in an automatic pond fish feeder to ensure that your fish are taken care of while you’re away.

[/text][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]TetraPond Pond Sticks 6.61 lb[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Aquascape Pond Plant Potting Media 10 lb[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0 class=”” width=”33.33333333333333″ padding_left=”0″ padding_right=”0″ disable_responsive=”” sticky_inside=””][text text_format=””]Ani Mate P7000 Pond Fish Feeder[/text][/column-sneeit-shortcode-enable-nested-0][text text_format=””]

Step 8: Add the Finishing Touches!

The final step before opening your pond is to give it some character by adding some decorative finishing touches. These can include ornaments, spitters, fountains, and pond lighting kits.

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At last, your pond is ready for you to enjoy and for others to admire. Happy Pond Season!


Why Your Aquarium Needs A Cory Catfish

Does your aquarium feel like it’s missing something? Adding a new fish can be a bit like getting a new college roommate – you might worry that the newcomer will be messy, irritable, or fail to mesh well with the existing Inhabitants. However, like a great college roommate, the Cory catfish is easygoing, adaptable and will leave its environment cleaner than before.


Also known as Corydoras, Cory catfish are petite: between one and four inches in length. Because they are small and graze at the bottom of the tank, they don’t get in the way of quicker, larger fish in other regions. They are not aggressive and pose no threat to smaller fish. Cory catfish suck up food with their mouths and will not bite other fish intentionally or by accident. They are social in nature and are happiest when kept with at least three members of the same species.


Cory catfish are native to the small streams, ponds and shallows of South America. They are adaptable to a wide variety of water conditions but prefer water that is softer and slightly acidic. They are at home in both small and large tanks. They can tolerate temperatures of 68 to 82 °F. While they are highly adaptable, they should be given time to adjust to a new environment. When switching tanks, turn off the aquarium light and allow the fish to float on the surface in a plastic transport bag for half an hour. Then add some of the aquarium water to the bag and let it sit for another half an hour. At this point your corys can be set free to explore their new tank.


As a small bottom feeder, the cory catfish is an extremely efficient cleaner. It will scavenge the leftovers that have sunk to the bottom, cleaning up after messier fish that feed at the surface and midlevel of the tank. Catfish can forage food from small crevices and tight plant stalks that might be inaccessible to other fish. Be sure to include gravel or sand in the substrate. This makes it easier for the catfish to dig for stray bits of food at the bottom. All this scavenging means your tank will be cleaner and your water quality better, making it a healthier environment for your entire fish population. Be sure to supplement this diet of leftovers with sinking pellets or flakes to ensure your fish is getting enough to eat.


As a final benefit, the Cory catfish is also easy to breed. While this trait can be a drawback in a college roommate, it is something many aquarium owners look for. To determine the sex of your fish, simply look at its body. Male catfish are slimmer and more streamlined, while females are thicker around the abdomen. Cooler temperatures can induce spawning, as can a drop in barometric pressure.

The Cory catfish makes a great addition to any aquarium. It is easy to care for and gets along well with a wide variety of fish. It will improve the ecosystem of your tank by keeping it clean. Visit our store to find everything you need to keep your Cory and its tank mates healthy and happy.


Why Your Aquarium Needs A Cory Catfish - Big Al's Pets


10 Best Saltwater Fish To Keep In Your Nano Reef Aquarium

10 Best Saltwater Fish To Keep In Your Nano Reef Aquarium - Big Al's Pets

Many fish that are placed in small aquariums will create their own territories within the small space. For this reason, it is essential that, regardless of the size of your tank, you don’t overcrowd it. Check out this list of the 10 best saltwater fish to keep in your nano reef aquarium.

  1. Clownfish (Amphiprioninae)
    This is one of the most popular nano reef aquarium fish. While the orange and white variety is most recognizable, clownfish may also come in black and white, blue and other colors. Hearty eaters, clownfish require regular feedings in order to stay healthy.
  2. Fire Fish (Nemateleotris magnifica)
    The firefish is a long specimen with a flowing tail and magnificent pointed fins. Its ethereal appearance makes it a great addition to your aquarium. The most common variety of firefish is white with a red tail, but they are also available in purple or blue.
  3. Goby (Gobiidae)
    The goby is a unique fish with an eel-like body and fins that are set close to its body. Its large eyes are its most defining feature. The goby comes in a variety of vibrant colors including electric blue and green with yellow stripes.
  4. Clingfish (Gobiesocidae)
    A long, narrow fish with a pointed snout and a striped body. Be aware that, unlike other aquarium fish, the clingfish is carnivorous and needs to be fed a diet of meat.
  5. Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni)
    The red and orange cardinalfish is exceptionally docile. They can be kept in relatively large schools and make a peaceful addition to your aquarium.
  6. Basslet Fish (Grammatidae)
    The basslet is a quick-moving striped fish. Always darting around, basslet can work up quite an appetite. They need to be fed at least twice a day if they are to thrive. Vibrantly colored basslets are the rainbows of the aquarium. They come in varieties of bright purple, blue and indigo. Since they live in deep water, basslets tend to do best in aquariums where the lighting is slightly subdued and there are plenty of dark places to hide.
  7. Yellowhead Jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons)
    The cute and playful yellowhead has a long body, knife-like fins and a rounded yellow head. They tend to get along well with other aquarium fish and they enjoy having plenty of different places to hide and explore. Nevertheless, they do get along comfortably in smaller reef tanks, given the right setup.
  8. Blenny Fish (Blennioidei)
    The blenny is a striking fish decorated with white and black blocks of color. They are a little on the shy side and tend to do best in aquariums where they can carve out a space of their own as well as have places to hide.
  9. Twospined Angelfish (Centropyge bispinosa)
    Twospined angelfish, also known as coral beauty angelfish or dusky angelfish, are usually a great asset in nano reef tanks. These vibrant saltwater fish are passive, reef-friendly, and grow to no more than a couple of inches. They are hardy fish that don’t require a whole lot of tank space, making them a great addition to any nano reef aquarium.
  10. Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus)
    The tire track eel is a long spiny eel with a mottled complexion and a pointed snout. Though still suitable for nano aquariums, tire track eels are on the large side and require a little extra room.

Pick from this assortment of vibrant saltwater fish to liven up your nano reef aquarium. Most of the aforementioned breeds are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns from fish breeders and pet shops. Happy Tankin’!

Is An Axolotl The Right Pet For You?

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Is An Axolotl The Right Pet For You? - Big Al's Pets

Axolotls are large, adorable salamanders that are native to Mexico. Though not as common as snakes or large lizards, they have a growing fan base in the exotic pet community. Though they have lungs as well as gills, axolotls spend their entire lives in water which means they need a tank filled with deep water when being kept in captivity.

Hardy and easy to care for, axolotls are great pets for people who may not have a lot of experience with exotic animals. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when raising an axolotls. This article will help you decide whether or not an axolotl is the right pet for you.

Getting an Axolotl

Axolotls are not commonly found in reptile and pet stores because they require temperature conditions that are somewhat different from what is required by most snakes and lizards. However, axolotls are widely available from private breeders and axolotl enthusiasts. They may also be available at reptile shows and expos. You can order them over the internet or you may be able to get one special ordered from the exotic pet store in your area. If dealing with a private breeder, make sure that he or she is licensed and raises healthy, quality animals.

Caging an Axolotl

A ten-gallon aquarium is large enough for a single axolotl, but since axolotls tend to produce a lot of mess you may want to opt for a twenty-gallon or larger aquarium. The aquarium can remain totally full of fresh water since axolotls do not crawl on land. A mesh filter should be placed over the aquarium and clamped firmly in place to prevent the axolotl from jumping out of the tank. The bottom of the tank can be coated with regular aquarium sand, and the tank should contain natural rocks, plants and plenty of places for the axolotl to hide. Make sure that a clean water filter is in place to keep the axolotl’s water clear. Axolotls produce more waste than fish generally do, so you will need to change the filter frequently.

Lighting and Temperature for an Axolotl

When axolotls are young, they should be kept under relatively dim light since they tend to be shy. Older axolotls can become accustomed to brighter light, but they should still have some natural rocks and dark places to hide in their aquarium. Unlike many fish, axolotls prefer chilly temperatures and in fact cannot thrive at temperatures above the mid-70s Fahrenheit. You may want to consider buying an aquarium cooler to keep your axolotl comfortable year round.

Feeding an Axolotl

Axolotls are carnivores. Though they need to eat meat, you should avoid live feeder fish so they axolotl’s tank doesn’t become contaminated. Their preferred food is baitworms, which can be purchased at fishing supply stores. They can also be fed bloodworm cubes. If you feel like giving your axolotl a treat, try frozen shrimp or a ball of raw hamburger meat.

Your axolotl will be a great companion as long as you keep it comfortable and well-fed by following this guide. This cute critter is a great conversation piece and a pleasure to watch when you’re at home.


5 Efficient Algae Eaters For A Healthy Tank

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1. Amano Shrimp

This active and entertaining creature is a very popular choice. Amano shrimp are ravenous eaters and will clear the tank of dead plant material and leftover food as well as algae. The only foods they resist are blue-green and green spot algae.

Take care when adding fertilizer to a planted tank, as it can be harmful to shrimp. Change water frequently to dilute the toxicity. A dechlorinator may be needed to keep chlorine and chloramine at safe levels.

Amano shrimp are happiest in a group of at least three members of the same species. Larger fish may prey on amanos, so they should be kept with smaller, more docile fish.

2. Bristlenose Plecos

Many aquarium owners enjoy the comical appearance of the bristlenose plecos. Its distorted head and nose are coupled with a blunt, stout body that can grow to be 10 to 15 centimeters long. These fish consume a lot of green foods, including blanched vegetables and bottom-lying algae tablets.

Bristlenose plecos feed at night and need a safe place to hide during the day. Be sure to include dark substrate material and rocky shelter along the bottom of your tank.

3. Nerite Snails

Nerite snails have a colorful patterned shell that makes them an attractive addition to an aquarium. They can clean algae from almost anywhere. They particularly enjoy green spot and green beard algae.

Take measures to keep your nerites safe. Cichlids and loaches may prey upon tiny nerites, and they should not be tanked together. Keep a lid securely fastened on the tank to prevent your nerites from climbing out. Maintain a pH level above seven to keep snail shells healthy and strong.

4. Oto Catfish

This freshwater scavenger thrives in heavily planted tanks with soft, filmy green algae growth. They can dart around the tank quickly, cleaning algae from many hard-to-reach places. Their diet should be supplemented with algae wafers and fresh vegetables.

To keep otos healthy, water should be filtered and moving steadily. Avoid sudden shifts in temperature or pH levels. Otos are peaceful and should be kept away from larger, more predatory fish. However, they do well in most community tanks.

5. Siamese Algae Eaters

This popular fish will consume most types of algae, as well as leftover bits of food, vegetables, flakes, pellets and live food. It enjoys flatworms and can keep this nuisance in check. Its voracious appetite makes it a great addition to your aquatic ecosystem.

Siamese algae eaters can be territorial, and a tank of 100 liters can house no more than five of this species. They also need plenty of oxygen and are sensitive to variations in pH levels. They can jump up to 14 centimeters, so keep a secure lid on your tank to keep these fish from jumping out.

5 Efficient Algae Eaters For A Healthy Tank - Big Al's Pets

Remember that algae eaters cannot survive on algae alone. Be sure to supplement their diets with commercial food so they can live long lives contributing to the health and ambiance of your aquarium.


How To Control Algae Growth In Your Aquarium

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If you have ever had an overgrowth of algae in your fish tank, you know how difficult it can be to remove. A little bit of algae is not such a bad thing; it can add a touch of natural realism to your aquarium. Without addressing the algae, however, you could soon find you’re a mess in your tank. Luckily, there are some simple ways to keep algae under control that do not require too much time or effort.

Portion Control

When you feed your fish too frequently, they may not eat it all. The nutrients in that food can encourage the growth of algae. Limit your fish to one feeding a day or very small amounts two or three times a day. You can always give them more, but it is next to impossible to remove what they do not finish.

Dim the Lights

Algae need plenty of light to flourish. If your tank gets natural sunlight, you may want to move it to a shadier spot in your home. You can get a timer for your aquarium light to have better control over the amount of light exposure. The fish won’t mind a reduction in the limelight.

Go Green

Incorporate green plants in your aquarium. Not only are they attractive, they can also compete for the light and nutrients that lead to algae growth. Be sure to trim any decaying leaves, however, so they do not pollute the water.

Change Is Good

The idea of changing all the water in your aquarium is overwhelming. Luckily, you can reduce algae with partial water changes. Aim for about 10 percent of the water every week. The idea is to dilute the remaining water with fresh water to remove some of the impurities without shocking the fish or plants.

Know Your Water

Water from the tap is not necessarily pure. It may have concentrations of phosphates or other elements that can boost algae growth. Test your water using Aquarium Test Strips to determine what is present, or ask for help from an aquarium shop to understand what to look for or how to correct an imbalance.

Scrape Away

A simple tool such as a scraper can work to remove the buildup of algae on the glass sides of your tank. The algae may stick to the scraper instead of dissolving in the water, allowing you to remove some of it without having to work too hard. Keep it with your fish food or other aquarium tools so you will be more likely to use it regularly.

A Helping Hand

Promote a healthy tank ecosystem by adding a few algae eaters to the party. Breeds such as the Cory Cat or the Dwarf Otocinclus Catfish are easy to care for, and they earn their keep by eating excess food, algae, and leaves. Do a little research to see how many you should have for your tank size.

For more information on Algae Eaters, read our post on “5 Efficient Algae Eaters For A Healthy Tank“.

Keep Calm & Use Algae Control

You can take care of your algae problem, so do not lose hope. Big Al’s has a range of effective Algae Control products available to tackle this issue and keep your tank clean. We also have helpful tips and information to help you make the most out of your aquarium.



Top 10 Most Colorful Freshwater Fish

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Top 10 Most Colorful Freshwater Fish - Big Al's Pets
Freshwater fish have a reputation of being less vibrant and colorful than their saltwater cousins. Instead of resorting to bright gravel, backgrounds, or lights to bring color to your aquarium, you can find species of fish that are attention grabbers.

  1. Male Betta
    You have probably spotted these fan-tailed fish at your local pet store. They are available in a variety of colors, live for quite a while, and are generally easy to care for. Unfortunately, they do not play nice with others, so they are best kept alone or with other larger species.
  2. Flowerhorn Cichlid
    These unusual-looking fish are notable for their bulging heads and flower petal-shaped markings. This cichlid is farm-raised in the United States and can be quite expensive. They also tend to be more aggressive than other species, so consider your aquarium population before investing in a flowerhorn.
  3. Discus
    Another colorful member of the cichlid family is the Discus. These fish are native to the Amazon River and are available in different colors, patterns, and sizes. Breeders have played around with the discus to develop even more variety in appearance.
  4. Peacock Cichlid
    For a bright and beautiful fish that is great for beginners and experts, look for the peacock cichlid. They tend to have vertical striation and a spectrum of colors. They are easy to maintain and get along well with other species.
  5. German Blue Ram
    Yet another cichlid species that can brighten up your aquarium is the Blue Ram. They are small and peaceful, but oh, those blue dotted fins can capture your attention.
  6. Fantail Guppy
    These little beauties can bring a pop of color to your freshwater tank. They are inexpensive as well, making them a popular choice with many fish hobbyists. Fantails can be patterned or solid and are also found in an array of colors.
  7. Killifish
    Even though this species is found in many parts of the world, they can be hard to locate in pet stores. Killifish are relatively low maintenance, and the males are more flamboyant than the females.
  8. Gourami
    For an active and entertaining fish to add to your tank, you may want to look for a gourami. These are native to parts of Asia and have several colorful species. Look for the Banded, Blue, or Red Fire Dwarf varieties.
  9. Boesman’s Rainbowfish
    Another Asian species from the waters of Indonesia is the rainbowfish. They tend to have a blue or purple hue on the front half that fades to a bright orange or red. These fish are also peaceful and can complement other species well.
  10. Endler’s Livebearer
    Small but colorful livebearers are like hidden treasure. They can be rare and require a bit of a search to find them in shops, but they sparkle like gems in your aquarium. They can tolerate different water conditions and are easy to keep, making them worth the hunt.

Across the Spectrum

Whatever level of experience you have with freshwater tanks, you can create a colorful underwater world to enjoy. And of course, do not hesitate to contact us for any questions you may have regarding suitable fish and/or equipment for your aquarium.


How Filter Media Can Benefit Your Aquarium

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Be it a saltwater or a freshwater tank, maintaining ideal water conditions in your tank requires some knowledge about the different types of filter media used in aquariums. The three types of filter media are biological, mechanical and chemical. Here are some details about how each type helps filter your tank.

Biological Filter Media

Bio-filter media is helpful in filtration because it allows beneficial bacteria to flourish in your tank environment. The bacteria are responsible for controlling the amount of ammonia in the tank by breaking it down naturally. It’s important to allow for the biological media to do its job and to not replace it during the life of the tank. Instead, you can simply clean it periodically.

  • Live Rocks – For saltwater tanks, some hobbyists prefer using porous live ocean rock as the base for a new tank. The rock also acts as a biological filter in keeping the nitrogen cycle in the right conditions.
  • Bio-Filter Media – It is also possible to purchase commercially available biological filter media, such as bio balls or other rocky substances. These accessories can be placed in the sump of the tank’s filter and help keep your water clean, clear and free of harsh ammonia levels.

Mechanical Filter Media

Another piece of a healthy tank is an effective mechanical filter with appropriate filter accessories. These pieces work alongside the biological system to keep water perimeters at top levels for healthy creatures.

  • Filter Pads – Filter pads work along with your current filter setup to help strain out debris and other matter before it gets recirculated through the tank. It’s vital to regularly clean the pad to help it do its job better.
  • Filter Floss – Filter floss made from polyester helps keep your water clear. It can be placed inside of a canister filter and work with the system to keep particulates out of the tank.
  • Foam Blocks – A firm foam block can assist your main filter with having clear and healthy water when it is placed in your tank’s filter system.

Chemical Filter Media

Finally, chemical filtration is another effective method that hobbyists use to keep their tanks in optimal condition. Some aquarium enthusiasts think this type is purely optional, but it can also be used with your basic filtration system for your tank.

  • Carbon Filters – The most popular type of chemical that is used in filtering is activated carbon. You can purchase carbon accessories to help remove harmful bacteria in your tank, but using too much can do more harm than good.
  • Resin Filters – Some tank owners use ion exchange resins to assist them in keeping their tank clean. Resins help by adhering to various particulate molecules, such as ammonia, nitrate or organic matter, and dissolving them.

How Filter Media Can Benefit Your Aquarium - Big Al's Pets

Finding the right filter setup for your tank can help your fish and other aquatic creatures be at their best. Your tank can also continue to be a source of pleasure for you by being a beautiful and healthy ecosystem.