The Secrets To Keeping Your Tank Clean And Your Fish Healthy

The biggest concern to most teachers hatching fish in the classroom is keeping the fish healthy and alive. We received the following “secrets of success” from a teacher that has been hatching steelhead with the Salmon and Trout Education Program (STEP) in San Jose. The advice is brilliant in its simplicity.

“In the 13 years I received steelhead eggs and more years for my wife Carolyn in her classroom we had never had problems caused by bacteria or other pathogens.  I attribute this to the care we took in preparing the aquarium tanks.

1.  We purchased regular aquarium gravel and thoroughly washed it in clean running water.  Then we boiled the gravel for several hours, not just a short time.

2.  We purchased rounded river rocks of the recommended size from a local rockery.  We hand washed each rock until we felt that every bit of dirt had been removed. Then the rocks got boiled for several hours.

3. We only used the aquarium tank, pumps, filters, gravel, and rocks for the STEP steelhead project.  Since the project does not permit feeding the fry, uneaten food never collected in the gravel to become a media for pathogens to grow on later.*

4.  After taking down the aquarium tank at the conclusion of the project each year, the gravel and rocks were dried before being stored in a closed container, ready for next year’s project.

5.  The following year we unpacked our dedicated STEP project tank and equipment, and thoroughly boiled the saved gravel and rocks.

6.  We always filled the aquarium tanks with store bought bottled water.  Never stream water or tap water.

7.  The records I saved show that in all the years I hatched and released steelhead fish, I lost only one fish.

8.  I never saw, based on my experiences, that the gravel and rocks needed to be prepared in a pressure cooker, but I am not against doing so.

9. I never saw a need to start fresh with new gravel and rocks each year.  I believe this is because of the care Carolyn and I took in preparing them, and that we dedicated the tanks and everything that went into them to the STEP project and never tried to raise other fish in the tanks at other times or for food to be placed in the tanks.

Dan Flanagan –  Retired from Bret Harte Middle School

Thanks for the good advice Dan.

* Some programs allow the feeding of fish, however as Dan points out, it is not necessary and it does increase the incidence of mortality.

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About Ethan Rotman

Ethan Rotman (Bayareatic) manages and coordinates programs that hatch fish in classrooms for the San Francisco Bay Area. He also chairs the committee that manages these programs throughout the state. Ethan has worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for over 20 years.
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