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March 15, 2009 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner

I recently bought an Eheim Automatic Gravel cleaner from It arrived swiftly, was well-packed and available for the best price that I could find at the time.

I recently upsized and now have a 200l tank with dimensions of 100cmx40cmx55cm. I like to do a 10% water change on a weekly basis. I have a small-medium smooth-edged gravel substrate. Previously, I had used a manual gravel cleaner/syphon. However, as I moved to a larger and deeper tank, I found the manual gravel cleaner fine for syphonning water but less effective as a method of cleaning gravel. In the course of removing 10% of the water and juggling buckets, I was becoming less successful at covering anything llike a reasonable percentage of the gravel at the base of my aquarium.

I decided to look for something to make life easier. I researched a number of powered vacuum cleaners for aquariums. I wasn’t looking for anything to actually remove water but something that could be used periodically to remove decomposing leave litter and other waste that my fish had no desire to eat. Additionally, I wanted something which would reach the base of my tank with ease and without actually having to submerge it. I decided to opt for the Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner which filters water and returns it to the tank (having retained any debris). It can also extend to a depth of 60cm.

The Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner is easy to assemble and comes with 4 Duracell batteries to power it (I cannot comment on battery life at this stage). After opening the box, it was only minutes before it was ready for use. On its first use, I spent several minutes cleaning about a third of the base of my tank. Then I detached the Eheim filter mesh and rinsed it under the tap. ‘Stuff’ came out of the filter mesh so there was clearly debris in the tank which could, over time, have affected water quality. On returming to my aquarium, I noticed a visible difference between the gravel which had been cleaned with the Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner and the remaining gravel.

There are a number of positive things to note regarding the Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner. These include: ease of set-up; minimal noise and disruption to fish; given substantial size it is lightweight; it has a washable filter; and, above all, it is effective. It will clean gravel to a depth of 1cm and so does not effect beneficial bacteria in deeper gravel.

On the negative side, this device is more difficult to use on a coarse sand substrate. It is, as its name suggests, more suited to cleaning medium-sized gravel. Another point for consideration might be that if you are looking for a seriously powerful clean, you may prefer a mains powered cleaner.

Overall, I have found the Eheim Automatic Gravel Cleaner to be a very useful piece of aquarium equipment. Undeniably, it is not essential as there are manual options available. However, it has certainly made my life easier and given me more time to enjoy my fish.

February 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm 2 comments

Successful tank transition

As the cycling process is complete, I have gradually moved all my fish (with the exception of fry) into the new Fluval tank. My main motivation for setting up a larger tank was to give my fish a better quality of life than they were getting in the smaller tanks. I’m certain this has been achieved! It has been so rewarding watching the fish enjoying the extra space and exploring a variety of aquatic plants.


January 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm 1 comment

Setting up the Fluval Roma 200 aquarium with Fluval 205 external filter

This has been my first experience of setting up a larger tank with an external filter.  I thought I’d share my experiences for anybody in a similar situation.  So, this is how I set up the tank and filter (with suggestions as to how you could do it better than me!):

  1. I carefully positioned the tank (remembering that, when water’s been added, it will be impossible to move!).
  2. I wiped the tank with a damp cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
  3. I washed the substrate and added it to the tank.  I chose smooth gravel and needed roughly 25kg.  That’s a lot of gravel to wash!  I had some buckets ready so that really helped.  I filled a bucket about  1/4 full of gravel, added water, washed gravel and poured water away.   I repeated this until the water ran clear (maybe four times).  Then, I carefully put the clean gravel into aquarium.
  4. I added water (using syphon so as not to disturb gravel too much).  I used Nutrafin Aqua Plus to dechlorinate the tap water.  I also used Nutrafin Cycle.  I’ve read mixed reviews as to the efficacy of this product but decided to try it for myself.  Both Aqua Plus and Cycle are included in the aquarium package (along with fish food and thermometer).
  5. It was at this point that I realized that in order to attach the Fluval 205 canister filter I would have to take a hacksaw to my new aquarium.  This isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds.  The Fluval Roma tank comes with two sections which are designed to be cut to size for filter hose, air pipe, heater cable, lighting cable, etc.  How much you cut out depends on your needs.  For me, cutting roughly half of the cut out section was pretty perfect.  If necessary, at a later date, I can always cut out more.  Although I hadn’t expected to need a hacksaw, the tank is flexible and allows you easy access to add extra equipment (e.g. second filter) to the tank.  Had I realized that I would need to cut out a section of plastic, I would have done it much earlier in the setting up process (before I had even wiped the tank clean). As I’d already filled the tank, I held a cloth under the area which I was cutting to collect any mess.
  6. Next, I set up the filter.  Thanks to Hagen’s great printed instructions and step-by-step DVD, it was very straightforward.   Broadly speaking, it comes down to setting up an inflow and outflow pipe, preparing the filter canister and media and connecting the inflow and outflow hoses to the filter canister.  The manual suggested that it would take 30-45 minutes to set up.  Realistically, it took me an hour.  But it was well worth it.  The filter isn’t particularly noisy and is entirely tucked away in the Fluval Roma cabinet (all that is visible are the inflow and outflow pipes in the tank).Fluval 205 External filter
  7. Next, I positioned the Fluval Tronic heater (included in aquarium bundle) in an area of high water flow.  In my case, I chose to locate it close to the outflow pipe.
  8. The Fluval Roma 200 comes with two lightbulbs (one power-glo and one aqua-glo) which fit into the aquarium canopy.  Also, four threaded fittings are included to prevent moisture entering the electrical circuit.  The lightbulbs click into place and the threaded fittings screw onto the lamp-holder fittings..  Apparently, the bulbs need replacing annually.Fluval lighting
  9. I added plants and ornaments from a cycled tank to promote good bacteria growth in the tank which, in turn, will aid the cycling process.  I also purchased a potted plant collection from  The plants arrived swiftly and in good condition but they were unnamed so I’ll have to do a bit of guesswork to figure out what they are!
  10. Currently, I’m giving the tank time to cycle and carrying out regular water tests to check on progress.  The key thing seems to be to make it past the spikes before adding fish.  Firstly, amonia will peak and decline and then nitrites will do the same.  When the nitrites have declined to zero, it will be safe for me to add fish  Some people add hardy fish during the cycling process but the spikes will be stressful for fish to experience.  I decided that I didn’t want mine to go through that!Tank set-up complete

December 16, 2008 at 4:27 pm 6 comments

Dealing with white spot or ich in mollies

Since I first encountered it, I’ve learnt more about white spot or ich in mollies.

If you have a molly which has white spots, here are some things to try:

1. Add a little aquarium salt to tank (1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of water in aquarium). In the wild, mollies live in freshwater. However, in captivity, mollies are successfully kept in slightly brackish water. The bacteria which cause ich hates salt BUT check if other fish in tank will tolerate this.

2. Increase temperature slightly (up to a maximum of 82 degrees
Farenheit/28 degrees Celsius). A higher temperature helps get to get rid of the bacteria by speeding up their life cycle.

3. Big and frequent water changes.

4. Medicine which is suitable for all fish in tank (only if necessary as will likely cause stress to all fish and as directed on bottle).

Please let me know if you have any other recommendations which I could add to my list!

December 9, 2008 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Molly fry – 6 weeks old

The molly fry are now 6 weeks old. They are eating the same crushed up flake food which I feed the adult fish. I feed them 3 times per day and they are always excited to be fed. They feed until their little bellies are bulging. I have been advised to change 50% of the water daily as they need clean water to thrive. It’s been quite a responsibility looking after the fry. But, ultimately, it is a very rewarding experience and so enjoyable watching them grow.

December 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

My new Fluval Roma 200 has arrived

Yesterday, my new tank arrived from It’s a 200l tank and, therefore, much larger than my other tanks. I ordered the matching cabinet to support the weight of the tank which, when set up, will weigh over 200kg.

The box containing the tank arrived speedily and safely, in spite of not being wrapped in even a single layer of bubble wrap! The tank only had polystyrene packaging within it’s box at the corners to protect it. Maybe these things are stronger than I had thought. They are certainly heavy. Tip: have a couple of people available to help with the lifting – definitely not a one-man job!

I paid extra for the optional cabinet building service. Having seen the assembly instructions, I’m glad that I did! Not because the instructions are impossible, but simply because it saved a lot of hassle. We were able to place the cabinet where we wanted it and lift the aquarium on top. Done! The only assembly job that remained was to fit the magnetic catches on the doors. I assume this hadn’t been done as the doors are reversible (black or silver, in my case). This is not a big job but, unfortunately, I am missing a part (just my luck!). So, I’ll have to chase that up.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to setting up the new tank and can’t wait to move my fish in.

December 6, 2008 at 7:58 am Leave a comment

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