The idea of this page is to give you an easy way to find the links you need as well as to answer your questions.
Please consider asking your questions here, as this also then becomes a base of knowledge for others!!
IMPORTANT! If you have been helped by our extensive and unique articles, as well as the many hours Carl & Devon put into helping others in several online forums, please consider using AAP for your product purchases or at least a donation.
Our statistics show that in 2015, we had more traffic to our articles than ever, while Carl & especially Devon have doubled the time spent in free help, YET sales are down almost 50%. Our tracking software shows many use our free information and help to purchase at Amazon, eBay, etc.
If this trend continues, our only recourse will be to cease this free forum help, and cut back considerably in updates to our articles (& maybe dump many articles too to lower operating costs)
A Little American Aquarium History
American Aquarium was founded in 1978 by Carl Strohmeyer after 10 years in the hobby as a child and young adult. He started the company as one of the first aquarium design, maintenance companies in Los Angeles. He quickly specialized in fish disease treatment and prevention as well as aquarium repair and set up design.
Shortly after starting the company, he landed large contracts such as the Bahooka Restaurant account with over 100 large aquariums as well as many others.
Over the years Carl Strohmeyer was mentored by many in the industry including:
* "Prestige Aquarium" (Bill) on aquarium building and design
* Dr Herzog, a Harvard educated Endocrinologist who spent many years in the hobby, in marine aquarium care in particular.
* And many others
Over the years, Carl Strohmeyer used his time in the industry along with his mentoring to conduct many experiments as well as simply take note of his many practical experiences in aquarium and pond care. Many persons asked him to publish this information, but he did not at this time.
In 2002, Carl Strohmeyer left his maintenance and design business to his brother-in-law and moved to Oregon for personal family reasons. Shortly thereafter many contacts in the industry as well as friends asked him again to start a website to publish his vast library of information, which he finally conceded and did in 2005, but under the stipulation that he just use this as a way to sell shells and other ocean decor as a means of income. He wanted to keep his "American Aquarium" name for the online url, but it was taken by a music band, so he and others added "products" to the end, even though at the time no aquarium products were being sold.
Later however many suggested Carl Strohmeyer sell at least some aquarium/pond items via eBay, which he later did.
Slowly with time, many friends, customers, and colleagues exhorted Carl to sell what he recommended as he had done for years with his aquarium/pond maintenance business. He finally started to move past selling primarily ocean decor and sell many of the items his experience and research demonstrated worked well for both price and effectiveness/quality.
To this day, it is Carl Strohmeyer's library that drives this website as well as Aquarium Answers, now with the help of others in his research staff (primarily Steven Wright and Devon Trigg).
Please remember this when using this FREE library of information before purchasing elsewhere, as this library IS supported by sales at AAP.
For a more in depth business biography, please read this article:
American Aquarium/Carl Strohmeyer Business Bio
If you are using a Mobile device to view this website (& most others), it is much easier to navigate & read in "landscape view" (ditto Tablets).
Sometimes this has to be enabled in phone settings.
What is the Nitrogen Cycle?
The nitrogen cycle is the process by which organic protein based wastes are converted from toxic ammonia, to slightly less toxic nitrites, to relatively non-toxic nitrates (in some aquarium or pond systems nitrates are converted to free nitrogen or consumed by plants or algae).
For more, please see Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle FAQs or for the complete in depth article, see the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle
How many lights do I need for my aquarium?
This depends on many things including;
* Tank size
* Type of light you are looking at
You can learn more by reading our Set up suggestions article. This takes several things into account and has some very useful information!
What kind of lights are best for my setup?
This also depends on many of the same things above such as;
* Tank size
Once you finish determining the above aspects you are ready to look at different types of lighting. There are several different types such as SHO (Super High Output) LED, T-2, etc. Please see our Aquarium Lighting Types Article.
What is the difference between the LED single strips and the LED Duos?
The difference between the single and the duo is that the duo comes with one double power supply to support both units and the singles come with a single power supply. You can find more on our LED page.
Why is my water yellow/brown?
Always be sure to test your water parameters as yellowing can mean you have an imbalance or other underlying issues. Please see our Aquarium Chemistry Article for more information on this topic.
If your water tests fine your water can turn a yellow or brown (called Tannins) due to certain things you have in your tank such as driftwood, Bio-Lif, etc. This will not harm your aquarium inhabitants.
How do I get rid of the tannins in my tank?
After determining your tannins are not being caused by a chemical imbalance, carbon or Purigen are your best bet. You can purchase several types of carbon, the best being Bio Chem Zorb. If you have a smaller filter, such as a Hang on back, they already do have a small amount of carbon in your filter cartridge. You can get more and add it to your filter. For a smaller filter I would recommend the Nirox Active Filter Carbon. It comes in a small bag and will fit right into the filter. Please keep in mind that if you have plants in your tank, tannins are good for them.
Why is my Canister Filter losing suction?
If your canister filter is losing suction, it is typically because there is an air leak somewhere in the intake side of your setup. You can check specific problems on our Canister Filter Trouble Shooting page.
How often should I change my filter cartridges?
Filter cartridges can be changed or rinsed as often as you like, however if you do not have a "seeded" replacement you are throwing away much of your Autotrophic nitrifying bacteria, which is an important part of aquarium chemistry. I would suggest a Sponge Filter or Sponge Pre-Filter as they have the colonies of Autotrophic nitrifying bacteria that are needed, and you will not throw it out when you change your filter cartridges.
For more information on this please see:
Filter Media Care OR
What is an Aquarium Sump?
A sump is generally another smaller aquarium or holding tank below the main display aquarium (or aquariums in the case of a system with multiples) where by water is allowed to overflow or siphon into said "Sump Tank".
Then the water is pumped back up to the aquarium (or aquariums).
Generally, an overflow is a better idea as a siphon can easily be disturbed (even by fish) and then your sump system will fail due to lack of water flow.
A sump is usually located in the stand/cabinet under the aquarium, but the sump can also be located on the other side of a wall, or in the basement, for concealment of large sumps.
This sump is is generally used to place filter systems from sponge filters, FSB Filters, wet/dry filters, Protein Skimmers, to marine Refugiums (or multiples there of).
UV Sterilizers can also be run from a sump, although it is best placed on the main return line for best results, not looped within the sump.
Reference: UV Sterilization; Sump Use
*Saltwater Aquarium Set-Up Suggestions
*Aquarium Filtration, Filter Use
Which Direction should water flow through the UV Sterilizer?
Most UV Sterilizers are "Non-Directional", meaning the there is no specific inlet or outlet and water can flow either direction (the exception would be the Internal UV Pumps/Filters).
UV Sterilization at American Aquarium; Water Flow
Some UV Sterilizers such as the SunSun 9 Watt Premium Compact UV can also have inlet/outlet ports adjusted to point in a direction that better suits specific aquarium or pond set up applications.
Product Resource: SunSun 9 Watt Premium Compact UV
Why is my UV Bulb not working?
UV Bulbs can stop working, or not work at all, for a number of reasons. A couple examples are moisture damage, poor ballast, etc. To find and troubleshoot your specific problem please see our UV Troubleshooting Guide.
What size and type of UV Sterilizer is best for my tank?
The size of UV Sterilizer you use also depends on what brand you use as some are not as good as others. I would recommend the Vecton line as they are simple, well built units with replacement parts readily available. To find out what size you need please see our UV Sterilization Article.
What Size AAP Wonder Shell to Use?
While AAP provides many tips and scenarios for Wonder Shell use and while the original maker of this product (Weco) provides often incorrect information about use, we will give some very simplified information/directions here in our FAQ page:
Basically the most important purpose of this product is to provide essential mineral Cations that have been demonstrated to improve Redox balance, but this does not mean the same amount to all fish, as with many fish and planted aquariums, a little goes a long ways.
- For African Cichlids, Livebearers, Brackish (such as Puffers): The full suggested Wonder Shell as per the directions provided by AAP
- For a mixed community aquarium: 1/4 to 1/2 dose per the directions provided by AAP. Example for a 60 gallon mixed aquarium 1/4 to 1/2 Large Wonder Shell or 1/2 to 1 Medium Wonder Shell.
- For a planted aquarium, Discus, Bettas, etc.: 1/8 to 1/4 dose per the directions provided by AAP. All you really need is a small amount of constant mineral Cations, but not so much as to jump your GH much more than 3dGH (50 ppm GH). Example for a 60 gallon planted aquarium 1/8 to 1/4 Large Wonder Shell or 1/4 to 1/2 Medium Wonder Shell.
Product/ Further Information Resource:
AAP Wonder Shells
My pond has algae, will a UV Sterilizer help?
UV Sterilizers do help with algae, although it is not a cure all. If your water is green and/or cloudy, a UV Sterilizer can help with that. If you have hair algae on the sides of your pond, a UV Sterilizer will not help with that.
For more information on this topic, please see our UV Sterilization Article.
What else will help with algae control in my pond?
After determining you have the proper filtration and a UV Sterilizer for your pond, I would look at doing a veggie filter to help with algae control. Please see our Veggie Filtration Article for more information on this topic.
Also see this article: Pond Algae
My Aquarium has a considerable amount of small wiggly worms on the glass and in the water, what are these?
Despite misinformation on the Internet and forums; these are Detritus worms, NOT Planaria.
Normally these worms live harmlessly in the gravel, however when an aquarium has a large amount of organic decomposition, the population of these worms "explodes" causing these worms to swim into the water column seeking oxygen. Oxygen deprivation is the only danger these worms cause and the cure for these worms is not adding an anti-parasitic treatment, rather addressing the cause of the high amounts of decomposing organics such as with a vacuuming and/or improved filtration.
Please Read: Aquarium Trematodes, Detritus Worms
My Fish constantly get sick, what am I doing wrong?
Often it is a case of poor water parameter, which includes a lack of mineral Cations and a weak bio filter.
Sometimes it is a manner of over care and over medication.
Sometimes however it is simply a case of weak genetics or poor care for the fish prior to the current fish owner taking ownership. By this I mean a fish exposed to very high ammonia levels or similar that permanently damaged the fish Kidneys, immune system, etc. Genetics are an especially common problem with over bred Guppies, Bettas, and Goldfish
Unfortunately all the meds in the world will not help if genetics or damage are the problem and only optimum water conditions can help prolong such a fish' life
We strongly recommend reading and following as many or preferably ALL the steps in Carl's "Aquarium Disease Prevention" article. This is one of the most researched and tested articles that also represents much of his life's work. The more steps one leaves out, the less effective, and this includes the important step of true level one UV Sterilization (not a cheap Amazon Clarifier). Since it is difficult to fit a true level one capable UV on an aquarium much under 10 gallons and as well a stable bio filter is difficult in tanks under this size too, we suggest that any fish owner invest in an aquarium over 10 gallons. Even for Bettas, one could provide dividers, cages, etc that still allow for over all flow, better bio filtration, stable Redox, and UV Sterilization.
A Healthy Aquarium; Disease Prevention
What might have caused my fish to get sick?
This is related to the last question, so please also read the previous FAQ too.
The causes of fish illness can often be helpful in determining the pathogen as well, since some bacterium will thrive in certain conditions while others will not.
Here is a list of factors (please note that this list is NOT an exhaustive list!):
- Stress from other fish, often bullying. Columnaris often can get a foothold from such stressors.
- Poor water parameters due to high bio load, poor bio filter, and low oxygen levels.
Often nitrates will be above 50 ppm, pH and KH fluctuate widely from week to week (not day to day though).
Aeromonas or less aggressive Psuedomonas infections often result
- Poor parameters based poor Redox Balance, poor ionic balance, and similar.
Minerals and their Cations are necessary for many bodily osmotic functions, without which many fish will more easily succumb to disease.
Columnaris in particular "preys" on fish in such environments. This is also why water from a home water softener should NEVER be used since it drives out these essential minerals.
This is also why old timer anecdotal views on a higher GH such as 300 ppm being undesirable needs to be rejected based on current known science.
References to read:
*Fish Osmoregulation from Aquarium Answers
*Aquarium Chemistry; In Depth
- A common problem that most often there is little we can do for our finned pets is genetics or permanent physiological damage prior to ownership (such as kidney damage from very high ammonia levels due to over crowding in shipping, holding, etc.)
Really all one can do is provide the most optimum conditions from feeding to Redox, but to NOT pour in medication after medication chasing after a cure that will simply never be forth coming!
- Less than optimum diet:
While many fish foods are good or at least appear to be good, never go by reasoning that the "fish like it" or user reviews.
Stick to the ingredients and the order in which they are listed. If one food has Spirulina as the #2 ingredient while another it is #4, the first is likely to be the better product. Ditto if cereal fillers are higher on the list or are listed more than once.
- Too much care.
This is a common problem of well many fish keepers making constant adjustments, having their hands in the aquarium, etc., often with poor results.
Please read this for further information:
Aquarium Disease Prevention; Too Much Care
- Trying to follow too many different fish keeping advice regimens.
While often one method of aquarium keeping is just as viable as another based different approaches that still use science as there basis, combining these methods more often than not results in failure based on my years of experience and testing.
One should find one proven method of fish/aquarium and stick to it such as how one cycles their new aquarium.
A related problem is following community driven reviews in places such as Amazon. These reviews are almost all driven by initial experience, often with missing but required parts, with no scientific testing, by persons with simply no credentials to make the statements both positive and negative in these reviews.
In house calls & later emails over the years Carl has often found these "advice problems" to be at the root of constant fish illnesses.
What water or air pump will work best for my application?
We offer several different types and sizes of water pumps. To determine what water pump would work best for you, and your setup (aquarium fountain, pond), please check out our Pump Specification Page.
Please be aware that for best performance and to achieve the full normal life of your water pump, it should be placed at or below the water level of the aquarium, fountain, or pond.
As well, most modern pumps are magnetic drive and are best operated fully submersed. The exceptions to this are generally stated by the manufacturer and usually these pumps are much more pricey.
Please reference the above Pumps Specification article for more about this.
For Air Pumps, as generalization it often depends upon the number of air powered outlets/devices are needed.
As well the depth of the aquarium in question can make a difference in the pump needed, as you would not want a low air volume economy air pump running an air powered device such as a Sponge Filter that in over 18 inches of water depth.
Placement is also important!
If at all possible the air pump should be placed above the aquarium. My experience has shown that this adds considerable life to the air pump, provides better air pressure, and prevents the possibility of water back up into the pump.
Even if there is no good location on top or above the aquarium, running a long air line tube into a closet or similar where the air pump can be placed above the water level is worth it for the above stated reasons!
Here are a few suggestions:
220/240 or 110/120 Voltage
At American Aquarium Products all our electrical products are designed for the North American and some South American markets and thus are 110/120 VAC 60 Hz. appliances.
Exceptions are marked on the selling pages.
A couple examples:
- The 105 Watt SHO Light specifically designed for 220- 277 volt AC and fit E40 (mogul screw base) for European or similar electrical systems
- All AquaRay Premium Aquarium LED Lights are easily compatible with all electrical, one simply needs to purchase the correct cord to plug into their electrical outlet and the appliance will do the rest!
Otherwise simple and reasonably price pure sine wave electrical step down converters are available that also change the hertz frequency.
Example/Resource (not affiliated with AAP): 240v 110v Step Down Stepdown Transformer Converter
Why Should I Purchase at American Aquarium Products?
- The majority of our products are based on actual use by our sister aquarium maintenance companies
- We spend hours per day in research, diagrams, testing, etc. In fact the majority of our man-hours are spent here, not in selling
- Often many of the products we sell are the better version of a similar product.
- In fact we often retrofit products to improve products prior to selling.
It is also noteworthy that many manufacturers, especially in Asia sell products with the same name, but with DIFFERENT levels of quality and what actually comes with the product, in other words you get what you pay for.
A good example is the SunSun line; the SunSun product you purchase on Amazon or eBay is often NOT the same item we sell, as we include pre-filters, retrofits, flow adjustments, & more
- While American made, we have unique Wonder Shells sold NO WHERE ELSE!
- ALL our UV Replacement Bulbs are the best Hot Cathode, Low Pressure Lamps, which are superior in UVC output
As well many of our Compact UV Bulbs (such as the 9 Watt) have a patented heat shield which further increases output of UVC; this is a feature VERY FEW other sellers online of otherwise sell!!
- We provide more information and have more customer service experience than ANY seller of TMC AquaRay LED Lights in North America.
Why take our information then purchase elsewhere, often at higher prices (including in Canada where after exchange rates we are less expensive), with sellers with much lower product knowledge???
- Finally and MOST IMPORTANT, remember that we have arguably some of the most in depth and well researched articles, graphs, pictures, etc here and at our sister site (Aquarium Answers), and we provide these free of charge to 1000s of readers PER DAY as per our stats software.
However when you use this free information, and then purchase elsewhere such as Amazon.com, eBay, Dr. Foster & Smith, J&L Aquatics (Canada), etc., we CANNOT continue to support this website.
Our Stats show that less than 1/10th of 1% of the users of our articles purchase from us.
Even purchasing the few items we sell via eBay does not cover the cost of maintaining these articles due to eBay seller fees (& more), so purchasing this way does NOT support these American Aquarium and Aquarium/Pond Answers articles.
If this continues, this website, Aquarium/Pond Answers, and our forum sponsorship will NOT continue into the future.
Please help us support you by purchasing some of your aquarium and pond products here.
Or please consider a donation, even just $1 helps:
I need to return my order, where do I start?
Our return policy is probably one of the easiest I have found. We do not require RMA's (Return Merchandise Authorization) and can refund up to 80% of your purchase price. For more information, please see our Return Policy.
I need to return a product for a warranty issue. Do I have to return it to the manufacturer?
We take care of any warranty issues in house, so you don't have to deal with the hassles and long wait time of returning to the manufacturer. Please follow our Warranty Return Policy.
I am looking for a (fill in the blank) and can't find it on your website, do you carry this item?
If you have looked on the web page and tried the search bar on our website, chances are we do not carry that specific item. We only sell products we believe in and have tried and/ or used ourselves. For instance, in the past, we have sold a lot of Via Aqua pumps, but there are some pumps in their line we did not carry due to poor results (currently most Via Aqua Pumps are no longer available).
This policy of "cherry picking" what we know will work based on science and experience has led a few manufacturers to not allow us to sell any of their products as they have insisted we sell most of their line, even products we do not feel comfortable selling just to sell the few we like!!!
You can read more about this on our Business Bio Page.
As a further note, Carl's mentor for aquarium treatments and chemistry was very adamant as to knowing the ingredients of any product and how these ingredients work..
This resulted in Carl refusing to sell products that make claims that go against the science of the listed ingredients or worse, products that refuse to publish their ingredients! This despite often popular Internet claims for certain products that would never hold up to scientific testing scrutiny and likely positive results likely could be scientifically explained away if only by the "placebo effect".
I am trying to build my own (fill in the blank), can you help me?
We help by providing a lot of FREE resources and information throughout our entire website. We truly do like to help, however a lack of time prevents us from answering these types of questions. Please read all information and hyper links as your question is likely answered in one of our extensive articles.
Is there a discount if I order in bulk?
Sorry, but due to our already low prices we are unable to offer any further discounts. We do cap our shipping and large shipments in the lower 48 states often cost more than the customer paid. This combined with the low prices are where the discount is. For more information on this please see our Shipping Page.
Why have my products been opened?
We open and test/ check all lights, bulbs, filters etc. We do this as a customer courtesy, to ensure you get a working product that has all the parts included. Please see our mission statement for more information.
I need to change my order/ address! What do I do?
If you need to change your order, there will be a $2 Fee. This is to cover the time spent and fees charged to us, which usually exceed $2. In most cases orders canceled prior to shipping/processing can be refunded in full with no fees charged.
If an order has been shipped there is no practical way to get a package back from USPS or FedEx so normal return policies apply. Please Contact Us Here.
Why are our shipping rates higher than some other websites?
Actually we have not raised our shipping rates as fast as they have been raised to us, often resulting in our subsidizing the cost of shipping for most larger purchases.
This said, we have now changed our pricing structure for products, and we are now utilizing UPS SurePost in more shipments where it is the lowest cost option, although this method is also not as quick as other methods we have used in the past.
This will result in lower shipping charges for orders under $50 and free shipping for orders over 49.99 in the lower 48 USA. As well, all other locations will have lower cost shipping too, but since SurePost cannot be utilized in these other locations, the shipping decreases are not as dramatic.
We are also subsidizing shipping costs more than ever since we still do not get the rates that the Discounters/"Big Boys" get, so this may cut into what we can pay for staff to help out in outside forums and other means of Aquatic education.
We at American Aquarium Products (AAP) utilize many shipping methods from USPS First Class, Priority Mail, UPS, as well as SurePost (by UPS & USPS).
Even when expedited shipping is NOT paid for, we often ship via Priority Mail for packages under 2-4 lbs..
We also ship on Saturday where most of our competition does not!!
The result is many customers ordering late on Friday a package weighing 2 lbs receiving their purchases on Monday or Tuesday for Standard Shipping.
Even with Economy, if the cost is no higher for First Class, or even Priority Mail or Standard UPS, we often upgrade for no charge if the cost to us is the same!!
Our competition from BRS to Amazon, do not do this, rather most economy (free shipping) from others is strictly FedEx SmartPost or UPS SurePost, Monday through Friday only which will take often 7-8 business days!
We have even made special request USPS Express Mail drop offs at our regional USPS facility on Saturdays, service you will not get from the big discounters.
Complete AAP Shipping Policy
Why we use email support over phone support?
We offer world class customer support/help via email, INCLUDING after hours and weekend tech support from staff not even in the office to utilize a phone that we pay per email to offer timely customer support. Few online sellers offer this (also including our staff paid to be online @ Everything Aquatic Forum).
Even for non-customers, we are more than happy to direct you to where further information can be obtained our extensive aquarium/pond keeping articles with specific links. However we do ask for more detailed specific questions and answers, as well as questions directed at the author of the articles, that these be directed to the forum we sponsor.
Everything Aquatic Forum Home Page
WE APOLOGIZE for any inconvenience not having a direct phone line may cause.
HOWEVER, the costs in employee time alone resulted in business losses. In part, because the majority of calls were not even from customers, rather people needing help with products we MAY sell, but have been purchased elsewhere. As well many of the questions from customers & non-customers were asking for detailed help with aquarium/pond builds, fish medications questions that could be asked in our forum where much more in depth and written help could be provided in a much more efficient manner.
On top of that, not having a written record for technical issues could AND DID result in fraudulent charge backs and this results in CONSIDERABLE financial losses!
Another part of the reason for no phone service is a considerable amount of calls we have taken went on to ask questions, which lasted 20 or more minutes for information that is already in our extensive articles and could have been linked to in an email or forum question. There has also been calls, which have become verbally abusive to our employees.
In the end, our staff, including Carl spends a great deal of time in article updates (which includes new pictures/diagrams), we would have to cease maintaining our free article libraries which is the most unique aspect of our web site so as to donate this time to questions that are otherwise much better handled via our email, articles, and for specifics, our sponsored forums (where we donate a considerable amount of time for free).
If customer assistance is needed, please use our email!
For more, please read: Mission Statement - Customer Service
Do I have to use PayPal to place my order?
No, we use PayPal as our primary payment option, but a credit card can still be used and PalPal only acts as the credit card processor.
Do I have to have a PayPal account to purchase?
No, you do not need a PayPal account to purchase. You can use your credit card and PayPal will process it without an account. However, if your credit card is linked to a PayPal account it will make you use the account. For a walk through, please see our Shopping Cart Tutorial.