If you've ever introduced duckweed to your aquarium - intentionally or otherwise - you may have run into this common problem:
Floating plants offer a host of benefits for your fish tank, but they can also make feeding your fish a bit difficult. You don't want to dump fish food on top of a raft of floating plants. If the image above looks familiar, DIY floating fish feeder rings are a cheap solution that will help.
What are fish feeder rings?
Fish feeder rings, or floating feeding rings, are a simple device that sits on the surface of your aquarium and acts as a barrier to keep floating plants out of an area. This barrier creates a nice "window" into your tank that can be used for feeding. Floating feeder rings can be a variety of shapes and sizes, some have suction cups to hold them in one spot, and some can be combined with a feeding cone for live or frozen foods. There are a lot of cool feeding rings for sale that you can buy, but if you want to make your own, this DIY design uses components you may already have in your fish room!
How to make your own DIY floating fish feeder rings
All you need to make these floating fish feeding rings yourself is a length of aquarium airline tubing and a straight airline tubing connector. I always keep some scrap lengths of airline tubing around for projects like this. You only need about 6 inches of tubing for a small ring. The great thing about DIY feeder rings is that you can make them any size you want, and the only tool you need is a pair of scissors!
So first, dig out your old airline tubing and your airline connectors. I have a container full of fittings, elbows, connectors, and valves in my fish room. You never know when you might need parts for a project like this.
Once you've got a fitting, cut your piece of tubing to the size you want. Then connect the two ends together with the straight connector. That's it!
Once you have a ring, place it in your aquarium and use a net to gently remove any floating plants from the interior. The ring will stay on the surface and hold back your floating plants so you always have a clear area for feeding your fish!
I built this DIY aquarium stand for a 100 gallon aquarium I bought used and resealed. (You can read my post about how I resealed this aquarium here.) This was a really simple build that just used 2x4s and a sheet of plywood. I'm not much of a carpenter, so I didn't use a router or employ any fancy joinery. My main focus is always the fish and my ability to service the aquarium, so this stand is built with those things in mind.
Tools and Materials for this DIY Aquarium Stand
1 - 2 8ft 2x4s
1 - 4ft x 8ft sheet of 1/2 inch plywood
2 - wood knobs
1 - box of 2.5 inch screws
2 - cans of black spray paint
6 - magnetic cabinet catches
Building the Aquarium Stand
Step 1: Cut the 2x4s
First I cut the 2x4s to make all of the pieces for the frame of the stand. This design uses two rectangles just slightly larger than the dimensions of the aquarium. My aquarium is 48" long x 24" wide, so the frame is about 49" x 25". One of these rectangles is the base of the stand and the other is the surface the tank sits on.
Four 32" vertical "guide" pieces determine the height of the stand. Eight 25" upright supports hold the weight of the aquarium. There are two of these vertical supports on each corner. This is important because 100 gallons of water weighs 800 lbs. Add 100 lbs for the aquarium itself, plus 100 lbs of substrate and rocks, the full weight is around 1,000 pounds. Screws alone would not hold that much weight, so vertical 2x4s are needed to support it.
Not pictured above are the four horizontal brace pieces that go across the width of the stand front-to-back. These are the same ~23.5" length as the short ends of the frame. The assembled stand is shown below, which should give you a good idea of how everything fits together.
Step 2: Assemble the frame
The frame is screwed together with 2.5" construction screws. I pre-drilled all of the holes to avoid splitting the wood. There are two screws at each joint. This should be done using a level on a flat surface so the stand ends up level. Wood glue can be added for extra strength, but I didn't use it on this project.
Step 3: Wrap the stand
I cut down one 4x8 sheet of plywood on a table saw to wrap three sides of the stand. I decided to leave the back open since it sits against a wall. The side panels are screwed into the frame. The front panel is secured by magnetic cabinet catches, so it pops off for maintenance.
I added two wooden knobs to the front panel to make it easier to remove. This stand could be built using normal cabinet doors and hinges. But I wanted to be able to pull the whole sump out easily for maintenance. Consider your filtration and maintenance needs when designing and building an aquarium stand.
Step 4: Sand and paint
I sanded down and spray painted the stand after assembling it. I used black spray paint to match the trim of the aquarium.
Completed DIY Aquarium Stand
After painting, I added a wooden bottom inside the stand so the sump doesn't sit on the floor. This is an optional step. I probably wouldn't have added it if I were using a canister filter. Then I hung the power strip on the left and put a small storage shelf on the right side. Below you can see what the stand looks like with the front panel removed.
After a couple weeks I added an LED strip light to the inside of the stand. The lights also wrap up the back side of the aquarium. This lets me see inside the sump when I clean the tank. It also adds a cool back lighting when turned on.
Altogether this DIY aquarium stand cost me less than $200 to build. I think custom built wooden stands are the way to go for larger aquariums. You can make a custom stand for your aquarium that will cost less and hold up better than most stands you can buy.
Multies live in large colonies in the shell beds left by the lake's native Neothauma snails. This natural shell bed habitat is what the aquarist should be aiming to replicate when setting up an aquarium for Neolamprologus multifasciatus.
Several species of dwarf African cichlids make their homes in shells. Collectively, they are known as Shell Dwellers. The species that I keep is Neolamprologus multifasciatus, often referred to as "Multies". These fish come from the sandy, rocky bottom near the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Multies live in large colonies in the shell beds left by the lake's native Neothauma snails. This natural shell bed habitat is what the aquarist should be aiming to replicate when setting up an aquarium for Neolamprologus multifasciatus.
Lake Tanganyika is fascinating for a variety of reasons. It is the largest of Africa's rift lakes, the second deepest lake in the world, and it holds about 16% of the world's available fresh water. Tanganyika is home to at least 250 species of cichlids, plus other fish that are not part of the cichlid family. It is also home to dozens of species of freshwater snails and bivalves. The water in Lake Tanganyika is notoriously hard and alkaline. The PH is about 9.0, and the water is very high in calcium. Temperatures at the surface range from 75 to 84 degrees (F).
Setting up a Tanganyikan Shell Dweller Aquarium
Aquarium Size for Shell Dwellers
N. multifasciatus are small cichlids: the largest males may reach 5 centimeters, while females usually top out at 2.5 cm. This diminutive size makes them a good choice for a smaller aquarium. The minimum tank size I would recommend is 10 gallons. Anything smaller will be subject to rapid fluctuations in water parameters. A 10 gallon tank could hold 1 or 2 breeding groups (6-12 fish). Use a 20 gallon long or similar high surface area format tank to show off their colony breeding behavior. Personally I keep them as the only species in a 40 gallon breeder. The large surface area provides space for about 60 shells.
Substrate for Shell Dwellers
To see Multies at their best, the aquarist should aim to recreate the conditions of their ancestral lake. Start with a relatively deep sand substrate, mixing in crushed coral or aragonite to ensure there is plenty of calcium present to keep the water buffered and the PH high. N. multifasciatus are diggers. They pick up sand in their mouths and spit it out, building hills and burrying their shells so that only the entrance is visible. I recommend a substrate depth of 2-3 inches to give them plenty of space to dig.
Snail Shells for Shell Dwellers
Of course, one of the most important additions for shell dwellers is the shells! In the lake they live in the discarded shells of Neothauma snails. But these snails are only endemic to Africa and the export of their shells is tightly controlled. If you are able to find legitimate Neothauma shells, expect to pay a high price. Instead, most Multi keepers use escargot shells that are commonly sold for cooking. They are very close in size to the Neothauma shells and very affordable. You will want 1 shell per adult fish, keeping in mind that these fish live in colonies, with each male guarding a small territory of 5-7 shells and their resident females.
Don't worry about aquascaping the aquarium before adding your shell dwellers, as they will move the shells and the substrate as soon as they move in. Just toss the shells in and spread them across the bottom. The fish will move and bury the shells very quickly.
Water Parameters for Tanganyikan Shell Dwellers
In order to keep the water appropriately hard and alkaline I like to use the Seachem line of Cichlid Lake Salts and Tanganyika Buffer. These products should only be added to new water during water changes, as they do not evaporate out over time. You will need to do some testing to determine the hardness and alkalinity of your water in order to dose correctly.
Although N. multifasciatus come from a lake with a 9.0 PH, don't put too much effort into chasing that PH value. Unless you find wild caught specimens, most fish will be able to adapt to a PH closer to 8.0. Stability and consistency are more important than precision. Always be careful when adjusting PH and test the water before and after you add buffering products to prevent large swings.
Temperature for Tanganyikan Shell Dwellers
Temperature should be at the lower end of the lake's range (below 80 degrees F), as N. multifasciatus actually live at depths of 50-100 feet below the surface. I keep mine at 77 degrees F and they do very well at that temperature. Anything between 75 - 80 degrees fahrenheit should be acceptable.
Shell dwellers are one of the easier fish to breed as long as you are providing them with clean water and the right conditions. Males will compete for control of a harem of several females. Breeding takes place in the shells and the fry will be born inside of a shell. Feeding a good variety of quality frozen and live foods will usually stimulate breeding. I like to offer live or frozen baby brine shrimp, microworms, krill flake, and spirulina flake. Live daphnia, frozen cyclops, or any similar food will also work.
The first sign of breeding activity is usually a group of small fry poking their heads out of a shell. The fry will be able to eat microworms, crushed flake, and live baby brine as soon as they are big enough to leave the shell. They will remain within a couple inches of their home shell for the first few weeks of their life.
Eventually you will end up with more fish than shells, which is the limiting factor on the size of the colony. At this point some fish should be removed and rehomed to avoid over crowding. Fortunately Multies are typically an easy fish to get rid of due to their small size and amazing behavior.