Ask Cobalt

I just got a pair of beautiful Blue Rams from my local fish store. How do i get them to breed? - Art P.

I just got a pair of beautiful Blue Rams from my local fish store. How do i get them to breed? - Art P.

Rams are a quintessential aquarium fish. Originating from the Orinoco River basin in Colombia and Venezuela, the species has been bred by fish farmers and hobbyists for decades. Rams have shimmering color, and a peaceful demeaner, without sacrificing any of the personality the cichlid family is known for. Considering this, rams are a common and highly sought-after species. There are now several line-bred strains in the hobby which do not occur in nature. Gold, electric blue, powder blue, and longfin varieties are available in addition to the equally stunning wildtype strains.

Many consider rams to be an intermediate level fish when it comes to spawning and raising the species. They are an excellent choice for aquarists who have bred convict cichlids or kribensis and are looking for a slightly more challenging cichlid to try their hand with.

Rams prefer soft water when spawning so after treating the water with Reeflowers Effective Conditioner to remove chlorine and enhance slime coat, aquarists in localities with harder water should consider doing partial water changes with reverse osmosis water, utilizing peat, or carefully dosing Reeflowers pH Minus.

Rams are pair spawners and fairly easy to sex. When mature, males generally reach a larger size than females, though they maintain a slimmer profile. Females have a more slightly more rotund build in their abdomens, which turn a bright pink-violet hue when courting, spawning, and guarding fry. In addition, several of the black rays at the anterior of the dorsal fin are extend far beyond the rest of the fin rays. Females do not have these elongated rays on the dorsal fins. This sexual dimorphism makes obtaining a pair a simple task.

Once a pair of fish has been obtained, it is important to condition them properly. Along with water quality, diet is an integral part of success with rams. Rams are carnivores feeding on small insects, crustaceans, and worms. Substantial protein and fat is important to females when developing eggs. Blackworms are an excellent food when conditioning rams to spawn. They do require refrigeration, daily maintenance, and the risk of introducing parasites or disease is always present when feeding live foods. Alternatively, feeding Cobalt Pro Breeder Flake and Cobalt ULTRA Worm Flake will provide comparable results, without the hassle of live worms. In addition, there is no risk of disease or parasites with these foods and they contain probiotics and immunostimulants which further boost the immune system of the fish. Spawning and raising fry is energy intensive so it is important to feed the spawning pair these nutrient dense foods while they are protecting eggs and raising fry.

The aquarium should have adequate filtration without risking damage to fry. A sponge or box filter can ensure adequate oxygen levels and water quality is reliably maintained. The Orinoco River basin is a tropical ecosystem and maintaining correct temperature is essential to success. A Neo-Therm Heater is accurate to less than one degree and will maintain the perfect temperature to recreate the tropical environment rams thrive in. Many breeders do not use a substrate, preferring to keep the bottom of the tank bare as it allows the aquarists to siphon out detritus with less of a risk of accidently removing fry. Hardy plants such as Java fern, Java moss, and Anubis provide cover and harbor microorganisms which can supplement the diet of the fry. Ceramic breeding caves provide cover and smooth flat surfaces on which rams prefer to spawn. The Medium Cichlid Hut is the perfect size for rams.

Once a pair of rams have the right water parameters, suitable places to spawn, and are conditioned with high quality food. It often isn’t too long before they spawn. When rams spawn, the female’s abdomen will appear noticeably slimmer and the pair will become obviously territorial. Rams are notoriously protective parents and will even attack the hand of an aquarist if they feel it is threatening their offspring. The female will often lay over a hundred small yellowish eggs on a smooth flat surface such as the top or side of a Cichlid Hut. In a few days, the fry hatch and stay attached to the spawning site by their heads. At this stage, they are wigglers and they do not eat as their digestive systems are not fully developed. Once they become free swimming, the fry begin to hunt for food. Newly free-swimming fry will often only eat live food. Newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii or microworms are excellent first food. Within a week or two of becoming free swimming, the fry can be weaned onto Cobalt Fry Minis. This high protein diet ensures the rams can achieve maximum growth rates, while providing the nutrients and carotenoids to promote healthy development and enhance color. Once the fry are large enough, a staple diet of Cobalt Cichlid Flake will continue to maintain good health and vibrant color.

When it is time to remove the juvenile fish from the tank, the fish will commonly seek shelter in a Cichlid Hut, making removal and transfer to another tank simple with minimal stress on the fish. Just cover the entrance hole with a thumb, lift the entire ceramic hut containing the fish out of the water, and place the hut in the new tank. One must be ready at this point because after the offspring are removed, it is often not too long before the parents begin to raise the next batch of fry!

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What flake food should I be feeding my tank? – Ryan H, NC

This is a great question that pops up rather frequently at fish stores, shows, and events. Frozen foods, live foods, freeze dried foods, flake foods, pellet foods – the amount of choices are growing every year. Walk in to any fish store and you’ll see flake foods still reign supreme, and for good reason. They’re affordable, easy to use, and readily eaten by most fish. They also offer great shelf life, are easy to store, and easy to feed. This month we will take an in-depth look at flake foods and how you can pick the flavors that are right for your fish.

Just like you, fish don’t want to eat the same thing every day. Unfortunately, a lot of fish only get the same food day in and day out. This can lead to stagnant growth, digestive issues, loss or lack of color, and lethargy among other symptoms. Whenever we get asked which food is right for a specific tank, we always encourage multiple flavors to keep fish at their peak. That’s why we offer over 15 varieties of flakes, each one specifically blended to meet the dietary requirements of different fish. Our question this month comes from Ryan, who has a freshwater tank featuring barbs, tetras, angelfish, gouramis, and corydoras catfish. We refer to tanks like this as tropical community tanks, where various species of tropical fish are mixed together in the same environment. Here at Cobalt we offer many varieties that will work for this tank. For Ryan, I suggest a base of Cobalt Tropical flakes. This is a blend specifically designed for community aquariums and provides a great general diet for most tropical fish. In addition, I would supplement the Tropical flakes with Cobalt’s ULTRA Color flakes, a blend specifically designed to bring out vivid colors in tropical fish. Finally, I would also include Cobalt Mysis Spirulina flakes as a bi-weekly treat for your fishy friends. This blend of high protein mysis shrimp and nutritional spirulina algae is loaded with natural Omega 3s for continued good health.

Cobalt flake foods not only provide a balanced diet for your fish, but they also feature Probiotics and Prebiotics to ensure optimum digestive health. Better digestion means less waste, and less waste leaves a cleaner aquarium! Additionally, Cobalt’s flake foods all feature our unique Blue Flake, which is a specially formulated flake packed with triple the standard amount of vitamins and minerals. This ensures a healthy immune system and maximum growth potential in your fish.

At Cobalt, we know choosing the right foods for your fish can be a challenging task. We are always here to help you pick out the correct flake foods (or any other variety) for your pets. Also, all our labels have pictures of some of the fish that food is best suited for to help make choosing the right foods easier. Have mollies? Check out our Ultra Spirulina and Color flakes. Got tangs? Ultra Spirulina, Marine Vegi, and Mysis Spirulina are perfect for you. How about clownfish? I bet they can’t resist our Marine Omni or Brine Shrimp flakes!

Cobalt is working hard every day to bring your aquatic pets the absolute best in nutrition. Whether it be frozen, pellet, or flake foods, Cobalt is here to help!


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How Do I Set Up A Saltwater Canister Filter? - Linda S, OH

When setting up a new tank, choosing filtration can be a daunting task. Hang-on-backs, internals, overflow boxes, canister filters, sumps – it can be an overwhelming experience for a new aquarium keeper. Canister filters are one of the most popular choices for fish keepers of all skill levels, and for good reason. They are typically quiet, easily maintained, minimize the amount of equipment visible in a tank, and are extremely versatile. What most aquarists don’t realize, however, is that canisters often come optimized for freshwater tanks. Luckily it is easy to convert them to powerful saltwater filters with a few simple changes.

Most canisters, such as the innovative Cobalt EXT, come with media trays featuring various filter medias. These typically include a coarse sponge for large debris removal, ceramic rings, balls, or bioballs for bacterial cultivation, carbon for organic waste removal, and a fine floss for water polishing and particulate removal. While this setup is ideal for freshwater tanks, saltwater enthusiast may find it lacking or unable to keep up with their saltwater tank demands. Luckily optimizing a canister is easy.

For most saltwater tanks, ceramic rings, balls, pellets, bioballs, or any other media designed to harbor bacteria is largely unnecessary. This is because the live rock found in saltwater tanks provides the exact same bacteria harboring ability, but at levels far superior to anything available on the market. To optimize a canister for saltwater, start by removing the ceramic rings or bioballs and replacing them with a high quality phosphate absorption media, such as Cobalt Blend-Tech Advanced or Cobalt Anti-Phosphate resin. Phosphate is a key contributor to most common saltwater problems, including hair algae, cyanobacteria, bryopsis, coral tissue necrosis, and many others. In addition to changing out the ceramics for a phosphate absorption resin, supplementing the carbon with a synthetic organic waste remover will yield impressive results in saltwater tanks. Cobalt Blend-Tech Total Organics or Cobalt Anti-Nitrate resin are ideal choices for this. Additionally, Cobalt Blend-Tech Total Reef combines a carbon blend, organic waste removal resin, and nitrate absorption resin to create the perfect filter media for saltwater aquariums.

By following these few easy changes, a canister filter can provide excellent primary or supplementary filtration for a saltwater tank or reef aquarium. We’re happy to answer any questions for you or your clients, and we are always available to help you choose the right gear for your aquarium!
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