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Fish produce waste in the form of ammonia. The biological filtration in your aquarium (numerous types of good bacteria) takes that ammonia and converts it to nitrite. Other bacteria convert the nitrite into nitrate, which is thereby removed from the tank water when you perform weekly partial water changes on your tank.

Nitrate happens to be a form of food for aquatic plants. Growing aquatic plants in your tank can help to keep the nitrate level to a minimum or even zero if the tank is heavily planted. When nitrates are low, you are helping to limit unwanted algae growth.

Fish love plants and some will nibble on plants for food. Plants will absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen as a byproduct, creating a healthy, natural environment for your fish. Additionally, plants provide security.

Beautiful Plant Gorgeous Plant Leafy Plant Plant

Low Light Plants

  • (less than 2 watts per gallon)
  • Mostly all Crypts
  • Mostly all Anubias
  • Mostly all Aponogetons
  • Anacharis
  • Java Moss
  • Vals
  • Java Ferns
  • Tiger Lotus
  • Dwarf Lilly
  • Dwarf Sagittaria
  • Sagittaria Subulata
  • Moss Balls

Warmer Water Plants

  • (for Discus, etc.)
  • Crypts - Any Type
  • Java Fern - Any Type
  • Vals - Any Type
  • Swords...
  • Amazon
  • Ozelot
  • Rosette
  • Anubias - Any Type
  • Dwarf Onion Plants (Crinum Zephyranthes Candida)
  • Tiger Lotus

Plants for Goldfish Tanks

  • Hornwort
  • Pennywort
  • Java Ferns
  • Anubias - Any Type

Cool Water Plants

  • Tiger Lotus
  • Crypt Walkerii
  • Potamogeton Gayi
  • Hornwort
  • Baby Tears

Brackish Water Plants

  • Micro Sword
  • Glossostigma
  • Bacopa
  • Java Moss
  • Tiger Lotus
  • Dwarf Onion Plants (Crinum Zephyranthes Candida)
  • Aponogeton Crispus
  • Crinum Calamistratum

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Empty Aquarium Aquarium

White Cloudy Water

New Tank Syndrome: In new tank setups, the biological filter does not have a sufficient population of bacteria, which creates white, cloudy water. It takes as little as 2 months and as long as 3 or 4 months for the bacteria to reach a sufficient level. However, you can give your tank a jump-start by adding a live bacteria product, which will colonize quickly in your aquarium to create crystal clear water!

Gray Cloudy Water

Overfeeding Your Fish: If the water is gray in color, you're looking at a probable bacterial bloom caused by overfeeding of dry fish food. Excess food at the bottom of the tank will spoil, causing an abundance of bacteria to grow. To prevent this problem:

Feed your fish no more than they can eat in three (3) minutes. If they eat all the food within that time, you can give them a little more to ensure they've eaten enough. Remove excess floating food from your tank afterward;

Add bottom feeding fish to your tank like loaches, cory catfish, or plecos. These act as a cleanup crew and will eat any excess food that settles on the gravel, helping to keep your tank water clean. Make sure that your bottom feeders receive adequate nutrition in addition to any scraps they may locate in the gravel.

Green Cloudy Water

Algae Bloom: If your tank water is green, it's an algae bloom — algae that is suspended in the water. Algae blooms occur from overfeeding your fish and having too much light in your tank, causing algae to feed and grow. Here's what to do:

Feed your fish no more than they can eat in three (3) minutes. If they eat all the food within that time, you can give them a little more to ensure they've eaten enough. Remove excess floating food from your tank afterward;

Limit the amount of light in your aquarium. Do not keep your lights on 24/7! A timer is very useful. If you do not have live plants, set the timer for 6 to 8 hours when you're home and viewing the tank. If you have live plants, 10 to 12 hours max is needed for optimal photosynthesis;

Do not locate your tank where it gets direct or indirect sunlight. Sunlight is considered excess light and will absolutely contribute to algae growth.

While it is preferable to take a natural approach to algae elimination through regular water changes, there may be times when either the algae is heavy in concentration or perhaps you might just want a quick fix. Liquid algaecide can be purchased to provide temporary relief; however, the cause of the algae bloom must be addressed to prevent reoccurrence.

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Maintaining your freshwater aquarium system is absolutely vital to the health and well-being of your fish. Every system is different. For example, a goldfish or large cichlid tank may require more water and filter changes due to the amount of waste produced by these types of fish.

Test your water frequently for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. After a tank has cycled, ammonia and nitrite should always be zero. Nitrate should be maintained below 20ppm and perhaps lower. If you notice your nitrate level starting to creep up, use that as your cue to do a water change.

Orange Fish Blue Fish Striped Fish

You can start with the schedule outlined below and then modify it to fit your system if more/less maintenance is required:


Feed your fish daily. Some species are best fed once or twice per day, others only every few days. Feed what can only be eaten in three (3) minutes to prevent overfeeding. If all food is consumed within that time, you can feed a little more to ensure they've had their fill.

Check every day for injuries and that all your fish are accounted for.

Check the temperature of the water to make sure the heater is set and working properly (goldfish tanks generally do not need heaters).


Either weekly or bi-weekly, change-out 25% of the tank's water using a siphon to draw up the water and debris from the gravel or substrate. You can replace it with R/O water (filtered, purified water free of contaminants) treated with an R/O conditioner; water that has been stored; or tap water treated with a water conditioner or de-chlorinator.

Test your water. If at any time your ammonia or nitrite levels are above zero or the nitrate level is above 20ppm, it's time for a water change.

Check your filter media, and clean or replace it if necessary.

Trim any live plants and clean up plant debris.

Clean the outside of the glass (use plain water and a clean rag, or spray cleaner on the rag, never on the glass!)

If necessary, scrub algae off decorations and inside the tank's glass using an algae sponge or scraper.

Clean the lid or cover of your aquarium.


Inspect all equipment, including lights, power heads, air pumps, and filters.
If needed, clean any equipment, especially the intake tubes on your filters.

As Needed:
Change bulbs every 6 to 9 months in your lighting system.
Replace airline tubing and air stones.

As you become more familiar with your system and its needs, you'll learn what you need to do and when. Regular tank maintenance will ensure a healthy aquatic environment, and make your tank more enjoyable for your fish and you.

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Frogs White Fish Orange and White Fish Two Fish Freshwater Fish

Where to Put the Aquarium

Carefully select a location for your aquarium; in front of or next to a window is probably the worst place of all. In hot weather, the tank water will get too warm, and algae will grow at an alarming rate! In cold weather, the aquarium will struggle to remain at the correct temperature. An ideal location is a neutral corner or along a wall. Make sure it is close to the power supply. Once the aquarium is set up, it will be too heavy to move, so make sure you are satisfied with the location beforehand.

Here is a list of components you'll need to set up a new freshwater tropical fish aquarium

  • Aquarium Tank & Stand
  • Hood or Canopy
  • Lighting
  • Heater & Thermometer
  • Filtration
  • Substrate (gravel/sand)
  • Gravel Vacuum
  • Tap Water Conditioner
  • Decorations
  • Fish Net
  • Air Pump, Air Supply Tubing, and Air Stone with Live Plants

Aquarium Tank & Stand

An aquarium tank should be big enough for the number of occupants (including room for new additions). It must be in the right location, and it must be within your price range. The water capacity of the aquarium is not as important as the shape and proportions.

When choosing an aquarium, thinking bigger is really better. Conditions in a larger, wider aquarium are more stable than in a smaller one, so there are generally fewer problems. A larger water surface is best because the water will hold more oxygen so that more fish can be kept.

One gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. If you were thinking of placing your aquarium on a piece of furniture, please think again: A small, 10-gallon tank with water and equipment can weigh close to 100 lbs.

The surface on which the tank rests needs to be strong enough to hold the weight of the aquarium and be level. If not, the tank may crack or leak, burst, or the furniture may just collapse under the weight of the aquarium. Therefore, when buying an aquarium, it's always best to purchase one with its own special stand or cabinet.

Hood or Canopy

In a freshwater aquarium, it's important to have a hood or glass canopy to cover the top of the tank. Using a hood or glass canopy keeps dust and dirt out of the aquarium water, and the fish safely inside the tank.


Lighting can become a lengthy subject. For beginners, however, using basic fluorescent strip lighting or compact fluorescent lights will suit your initial needs. Be sure to purchase a timer to turn the lights off after about 8 hours (12 hours if you have live plants).


Most freshwater tropical fish like to live in water around 78F, so a heater with a built-in thermostat is required to ensure a constant water temperature. You will also need to purchase an aquarium thermometer so the water temperature can be easily monitored.

It is important to buy the correct size heater for the aquarium. If it's too large, it will heat up the water too quickly, which can be fatal to fish. A heater that's too small will work too hard to maintain the required temperature and will eventually burn out and fail. If in doubt, ask our staff to select the correct size for your tank.

NOTE: A heater is not required for a goldfish aquarium.

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Saltwater setups turn out to be very educational and allow people to witness a habitat that can only otherwise be seen with the use of expensive scuba equipment or submarines.

Saltwater fish have vastly different behaviors than freshwater fish, many of which are unique to only marine fish. You can witness these personalities and behaviors in the tranquility of a saltwater tank.

The beauty of saltwater tanks offers aesthetic appeal to the viewer. A few minutes in front of a marine aquarium is relaxing and can help restore tranquility after a hard day's work.

Dark Fish Saltwater Fish Shrimp Purple and Yellow Fish Spotted Fish

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Mechanical Filtration

The mechanical filtration process physically strains out and removes particulate waste. This waste would otherwise decompose and degrade your water quality. Mechanical filtration prevents unsightly debris from clouding the tank and accumulating on rocks, décor, and substrate.

Hang on Filter

These filters are easy to use (set up within minutes), but they detract from the natural beauty of the tank because they mount to the side or the back. Media becomes clogged with dirt and debris, so water may not be effectively filtered. Hang on filters are also less versatile in terms of chemical and biological filtration.

Canister Filter

This kind of filter is less unsightly because it can be placed under the tank. It is also versatile because it allows the user to put mechanical, chemical, and biological media into separate compartments. It may seem more complicated than other filters, however. And you can't simply shut off the system and take off hoses without spraying water everywhere (it uses a series of valves instead).

Chemical Filtration

This type of filtration uses activated carbon to remove dissolved organic compounds. These compounds form a chemical bond with the carbon's surface to be removed.

Biological Filtration

The Most Important for Saltwater!

Nitrification Process

In this type of filtration, ammonia is released by waste or decomposing food. Nitrobacters (beneficial aerobic bacteria) feed on ammonia and convert it into nitrites, which are less toxic, but still harmful to fish. Bacteria then convert nitrites to nitrates, which are less harmful and the final byproduct of this process. The nitrates are removed with a water change, filter media, or natural nitrate reducing solutions.

Bacteria lives off of the rockwork and substrate, so 'live rock' and 'live sand' is necessary in saltwater tanks.

Wet-Dry Filters

With wet-dry filters, water is spread out over various bacteria-rich filter media, then collected in the sump and pumped back into the aquarium.


Exotic Fish

School Of Fish

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Many saltwater pests "hitchhike" on the live rock and invertebrates you purchase

Mantis Shrimps

These organisms are nicknamed 'thumb splitters' because if accidentally disturbed, they can produce a vicious wound. They lash out at prey and predators at high speeds. Additionally, these shrimps often hunt fish and invertebrates at your prey and are hard to remove because they hide in live rock. You can remove them with baited fish traps at night.


They are covered in venomous bristles, which are more like needle-like spines that inflict painful stings if touched by accident. Some may be beneficial, however, since they scavenge substrate. To remove them, use commercially manufactured fireworm traps or add a Copperband Butterfly, certain triggerfish, and filefish (these may nip at coral though).

Aiptasia Anemones

These small, drab, brown-colored anemones can wreak havoc on corals because of their stinging polyps. Copperband Butterflies, Klein Butterflies, and Red-Legged Hermits may take care of them.

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Saltwater organisms enjoy water temperatures at approximately 76-78 degrees; however, the exact value of the temperature is not as important as the stability. Do not keep saltwater organisms if your aquarium heater produces erratic temperatures, which can stress out fish and kill coral.

At least 5 watts of heating capacity per gallon of water for a small tank or 3 watts per gallon for larger tanks.

Lighting: For fish only tanks, fluorescent lamps are fine

  • Some invertebrates, like certain anemones, feather dusters, and soft coral do not need higher wattages
  • For fish-only, offer 6-8 hours of light; for corals, offer 10-12 hours of light
  • For other corals and invertebrates, at least 3-5 watts per gallon needed
  • Higher-wattage fluorescent fixtures are more convenient, cheaper, and produce less heat; however, they do not penetrate water deeply and are better for smaller tanks.

Metal Halide Bulbs

These bulbs are better for deeper tanks, but can heat up very fast, must often be fan-cooled, and are expensive. They are better for replicating the natural color spectrum and light intensity of tropical reefs. And they are most commonly sold in 175, 250, or 400-watt sizes. Newer technology makes this selection very expensive with energy consumption and bulb replacement.

Different Fish

Orange, Yellow, and Green Fish

Two Striped Fish

VHO Bulbs

These bulbs provide 110-160 watts each and also offer sufficient lighting. This selection is fast becoming obsolete.

Power Compacts

These bulbs produce a brighter light with less wattage needed (a 55-watt PC can provide more light intensity than a 110-watt VHO!)

LED Lighting

This is the newest and most energy efficient choice on the market today. Although these LED lighting fixtures are still very new, and the cost can be intimidating, the benefits are impressive. The energy savings are only one benefit. Anyone can feel good about reducing their carbon footprint by going green. And most importantly, with the lower energy comes lower heat output, and that usually means no water chillers. If you know fish tanks, you know what a headache heat can be, so this is another huge benefit. This is the way to go.

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Clownfish and Anemone Compatibility

There is a definite closeness between clownfish and their host anemone. The anemone provides protection for the clown; and in turn for this protection, the clown feeds and cleans the anemone. The clown also may drive off fish that could be harmful to the anemone.

These two animals share a truly symbiotic relationship. But will any clown go into any anemone? The answer to this question is most definitely no!

Each of the clownfish varieties has a definite preference as to which anemone is suitable to become their home. For instance, a False Percula (Ocellaris) clown would be very much at home in a carpet anemone and would probably accept a bubble anemone. It might put up with a sebae anemone but wouldn't even consider an Atlantic anemone.

The following table pairs each variety of clown species of anemone that might be accepted. Anemones in bold represent a natural host anemone for that species of clown: Bubble anemone or Entacmaea.

False Percula Clown (Amphiprion ocellaris)

  • Carpet anemone
  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone
  • Saddle anemone
  • Bubble anemone

Percula Clown (Amphiprion percula)

  • Carpet anemone,
  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone
  • Saddle anemone
  • Bubble anemone

"Sebae" Clown (Amphiprion clarkia)

  • Sebae anemone
  • Long Tentacle anemone
  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone
  • Carpet anemone
  • Saddle anemone
  • Bubble anemone

Tomato Clown (Amphiprion frenatus)

  • Bubble anemone
  • Long Tentacle anemone
  • Sebae anemone

Maroon Clown (Premnas biaculatus)

  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone
  • Bubble anemone
  • Long Tentacle anemone

Pink Skunk Clown (Amphiprion perideraion)

  • Long Tentacle anemone
  • Sebae anemone
  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone
  • Carpet anemone
  • Saddle anemone
  • Bubble anemone

  • Bubble anemone = Entacmaea quadricolor
  • Long Tentacle anemone = Macrodactyla doreensis
  • Sebae anemone = Heteractis malu
  • Ritteri (Maroon) anemone = Heteractis magnifica
  • Carpet anemone = Stichodactyla gigantea
  • Saddle anemone = Stichodactyla haddoni

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Uncured or pre-cured live rock is fresh rock from the ocean that is full of waste and debris. This waste emits ammonia and will kill everything in your tank if not taken out of the rock through a curing process.

You can use uncured live rock at the beginning of a tank set-up to cycle your tank. The cycling process cures your rock while breeding beneficial bacteria.

You can cure this uncured live rock yourself. The reason a hobbyist will buy uncured live rock is that it costs less than cured rock.

Cured live rock is "clean," full of beneficial bacteria, and can be placed directly in your tank.


Think about aquascaping as you buy rock. Cheaper Fiji rock can be used for base rock while more interesting shaped Tonga Kaelini and Branch rocks can be used to create caves and obstacles for fish or surfaces for coral.

If you buy rock from Aquarium Center, we can pick special pieces for your needs. Do let us know!

If you are setting up a new tank, save money by buying pre-cured or uncured rock!

You should have between 1-1.5 lbs. of live rock per gallon of water for proper filtration if you are using live rock as your main filtration. (Also, water should pump 10-15 times the volume of your water per hour.)


  • Freshly imported live rock has some die-off which occurs during the shipping process.
  • If you place uncured rock directly into your aquarium, this die-off will create excess ammonia, which can be toxic to fish.
  • We recommend that you cure live rock for at least ten days before adding it to your aquarium.
  • For brand new aquariums without any fish, you may add as much uncured live rock as you want directly to your aquarium. It will actually expedite the cycling process of your aquarium as it cures.
  • If you don't want to cure the rock yourself, try our fully cured live rock.
  • Our fully cured live rock may be added directly to your aquarium. Just rinse it in a bucket of salt water first.


  • Fill a new trash can or large plastic tub with saltwater.
  • Place the new live rock into the tub or trash can.
  • Place one or two powerheads into the tub or trash can with the live rock to create water movement.
  • Make sure the powerheads are submerged and cannot turn to where they could pump water out of the tub.
  • After 4-6 days, perform a 50% water change on the tub or trashcan.
  • After 10-14 days you may remove the rock and place it in your aquarium.
  • Dunk the rock in a clean bucket of saltwater to rinse it off one last time before placing it in your aquarium.
  • Remember, cured live rock should not have the same pungent smell as uncured rock.

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  • Please note: Be careful not to let the rocks touch the front of the aquarium or fall against the aquarium because they will scratch it.
  • Always use two hands when setting rock.
  • For new aquariums, it is much better and easier to set the rock into an empty aquarium with a sand bed only and then fill it with saltwater.
  • First, make sure that you wiggle the bottom layer of rocks down through the sand so that they rest firmly on the bottom of the aquarium.
  • Stagger the rocks on the bottom layer creating interesting caves and passageways through them. Use bigger, heavier rocks for the bottom layer.
  • For the next layer, use longer, flatter rocks to bridge the gaps between the rocks on the first layer. Make sure to wedge the rocks in securely.
  • If the rocks don't seem to fit together, try adjusting some of the rocks on the bottom layer.
  • If the rocks don't fit together tightly, use smaller rocks to act as spacers and give the larger rocks a sound foundation.
  • If you need smaller rocks, use a hammer to break one of the larger rocks into pieces.
  • Use the bottom palm of your hand to hit the rocks and wedge them tightly into place.
  • When setting the rock, think about creating caves and hiding places, as well as many levels of platforms for your coral to sit on.
  • When you are finished, tap your hand around on the rocks to make sure they are secure and not wobbly. You do not want rocks to fall or get knocked over.

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Some of the most important principles relating to freshwater tanks actually apply to marine tanks as well:

  • Same idea of cycling the tank
  • Proper stocking of fish and feeding rates are just as important
  • Three basic forms of filtration are the same: mechanical, chemical, and biological
  • Water changes are still required to maintain water quality

Much of the equipment can simply be switched over! Items that can be used for either salt or fresh:

  • Tank, stand, fluorescent bulbs (if fish-only)
  • Canister or hang-on-the-back filter and media (upgrade if necessary)
  • Wet/dry filter and media
  • Siphon, algae magnets, and pads, tongs, etc.
  • Power heads

Items to purchase specifically for saltwater:

  • High wattage bulbs or metal halides (reef tanks, not necessary for fish-only)
  • Protein skimmer
  • Sea salt mix (brands to consider: Kent, Coralife, Instant Ocean)
  • Hydrometer to test the salinity level
  • Live sand, crushed coral, or aragonite
  • Live rock (can be used in conjunction with live sand)
  • Test kits for saltwater (Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH; calcium/magnesium for corals); many test kits already come with saltwater versions
  • Calcium and trace element supplements (reef only)
  • UV sterilizer (optional)
  • Reverse Osmosis unit (optional)

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