Circulation and agitation

PictureNice surface agitation in this Nano shrimp tank. Photo from The Aquatic Gazette – https://theaquaticgazette.wordpress.com/category/tanks-tag/.

Water circulation and surface agitation are two important aspects of good fish keeping, especially for cichlid keepers. However, the two water manipulations are not mutually inclusive. The former isn’t quite as important as the latter.

Many cichlids not only enjoy considerable water circulation, but many species actually need it (e.g., Crenicichla species), especially to spawn. There are many ways to circulate water, but most folks employ powerheads to move water around. I’ve used powerheads and small, submersible pumps with PVC pipe to create underwater flow. Many variables come into play when deciding what to use to move your water (e.g., tank size, livestock, your goals), but that’s a post for another day. Suffice it to say that you should figure out what kind of movement you want and why you want it before you do anything.

Surface agitation is a requirement for gas exchange, which aerates you water, an essential component of maintaining healthy oxygen levels for your livestock. Many aquarists use air pumps to agitate the surface, but the same result can be accomplished by directing the output of your power filters (e.g, HOBs, canisters, sumps) toward the water surface. In a nutshell, making the surface of your tank water a little wavy is a good thing.


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