Classroom Aquarium Curriculum

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					Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Aquatic Resources Program

Classroom Aquarium Program

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Aquatic Resources Program Classroom Aquarium Project.

Section 1: Introduction
Responsibilities of Project Managers Application Annual Reporting Form

Section 2: The Aquarium and Aquatic Wildlife
Overview Materials List Assembly Instructions Maintenance Helpful Tips

Section 3: Aquatic Resources Education Curriculum A.R.E. Teachers Guide
Understanding Fish and Their Environment Fish Biology Reproduction and Growth Aquatic Communities Food Chains and Ecology

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Aquatic Resources Program Classroom Aquarium Program

Never before has the need for better education and understanding of our environment been so great. Never before has our responsibility to our youths education been so great. Education in their development of awareness, knowledge, skills and commitment, which results in informed decisions, responsible behavior and constructive actions concerning our wildlife and our very environment for which all life depends. Water in all its forms is one of the most dramatic of today’s arenas in which informed, responsible and constructive actions are needed. Water is one of the basic components of habitat for people and for wildlife. Water is essential to all life. Aquatic species and aquatic ecosystems give humans early and clear warning about the quality of the water environment upon which we all depend. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Aquatic Resources Program is very proud to be a new and innovative educational program designed to introduce school children grades K through 12 to aquatic education. Introduction will come in the form of the placement of complete 55 gallon aquariums in the classrooms of schools across our state. These aquariums are to be used to provide “hands-on” lessons in the stewardship of our state’s natural water resources, as well as provide additional information on wildlife and ecosystems that share our planet Earth. Aquariums are obtained through an application process. Applications may be obtained by request, by calling the Aquatic Resources office. Due to the limited number of aquariums available, after having completed an application, please be patient. You will be contacted by the Commission regarding availability and timeframe for delivery. Regional Education Coordinators or Aquatic Resources personnel will make deliveries. The project manager will be required to submit an annual report describing in detail the type of research conducted or their participation in a Science Fair, with an aquatic and/or environmentally motivated theme. Failure to do so may result in the removal of the aquarium.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission believes in both our “YOUTH” and our “EDUCATORS” that fill the state’s classrooms. You, and what you think, is of great importance to us, so “PLEASE” encourage your students to communicate with us on a regular basis. Le us know how everything is progressing, perhaps both letters and pictures are possibilities. “Welcome” to the World of Aquatic Education” Remember, “We’re all in this thing together.”

Aquatic Resources Program 23 Joe Hogan Lane Lonoke, AR 72087 501-676-9506 Classroom Aquarium Program
“To conduct fish and other aquatic wildlife enhancement, education, habitat improvement and/or research.”
A rectangle of glass or plastic becomes an aquarium when it is filled with water, planted with appropriate plants and has animal life added to it in such a way that the life flourishes as it would in its own natural environment. The successful aquarium is an operating ecosystem wherein all the needs of the life are met sufficiently to allow it to live in such an encapsulated world. Setting up an aquarium requires knowledge of the needs of the living things that will inhabit it. To be the most attractive while being the easiest to maintain, an aquarium should be able to function as an almost complete ecosystem. This ideal calls for a physical environment in which all living things put into the aquarium can find a home and all the physical factors that are vital to their existence. In the natural environment a life form cannot live if any one vital physical factor is missing. This rule is no less true in an aquarium, which becomes a home away from home for the fish and other life put into it. The physical factors that are important to living things in an aquarium are light, temperature, chemical makeup of the water, aeration and movement of the water, water cleanliness, space and bottom soil conditions. Light plays a vital role in an aquarium, quite aside from making it look attractive. When there is light, the plants growing in an aquarium provide oxygen in the water, they recycle the wastes that fall and are buried in the bottom gravel and they provide shelter for the fish. In the absence of light, the plants consume oxygen. The role of light in the aquarium is just as vital as it is in the natural environment. It is just about the most important

chemical process in the world because it is the process that creates food for the primary consumers in all food chains upon which all life depends. Water temperature is an important factor for the life in a water environment. Many fish are restricted to a fairly narrow temperature range. They are fish whose home temperature varies, and they are usually sensitive to rapid temperature changes. Chemical makeup of aquarium water is also an important consideration. The overall acid-alkaline range acceptable to almost all fish is reasonably broad, but if they are to be seen at their best, their water must be adjusted to the range most suited to them. Simple tools for determining the pH of water are obtainable, along with chemicals and information needed to correct aquarium water. Aeration is necessary if animal life is to survive in water. Plant life provides a limited amount of aeration. Most aquariums have more fish than the vegetation can support with oxygen. In such cases, other means are needed to provide adequate air for them. Water movement is also important as a means of giving active fish in a small aquarium a means of exercising. By keeping the aquarium water in constant motion, waste gasses like CO2 are able to leave the water at the surface and oxygen is brought into the water. Cleanliness is important in an aquarium. Cleanliness depends on the filter system. Many processes of cleanliness in the natural environment cannot be duplicated in the aquarium. These conditions include sunlight, flowing water, space, vegetation and microorganisms that play a role in keeping their world clean. Considering the size of your aquarium, it usually contains more fish life than it does the other kinds of small animal forms, plants and microorganisms that would normally contribute to cleanliness. For this reason, filters have to be used to make up the difference. Filters clean water as it flows through a material that screens out floating matter and then through a layer of charcoal below that helps rid the water of certain dissolved waste materials. The clean water is then returned to the aquarium. Space in an aquarium is also important. In nature, each life forms home involves an adequate measure of space. Many fish are quite determined about finding their space in an aquarium, which then becomes their territory and which they will jealously guard. Bottom cover soil, gravel or perhaps nothing at all is the last physical consideration. In nature, “bottom” is often silt that is rich in nutrients that can support both submerged plants and those that break water, grow and blossom above the surface. Silt in an aquarium is a problem, for any movement of the water will stir it up and cloud up the water. So a choice of loose gravel instead is best for maintaining a clear water aquarium.

Aquarium Setup
Students will learn how to set up an aquarium and care for fish and plants.

To set up an aquarium, you must first have some knowledge of the plant and animal life that will inhabit the aquarium. You must also be able to create a physical environment in which all living things placed in the aquarium can find a home, food, water and will continue to grow. In the natural environment, a life form cannot exist if any of these physical factors, which sustain life, is missing; the same principle is true when setting up an aquarium.

An aquarium is any container filled with water and planted with appropriate plants that have animal life added to it in such a way that the life flourishes as it would in its own natural environment. The successful aquarium is an operating ecosystem where all the needs of life are sufficiently met and life grows and thrives in an encapsulated world. The important physical factors that must be regulated in an aquarium are light, temperature, chemical makeup of the water, aeration, water movement, water cleanliness, living space and bottom soil conditions: Light: Plants growing in the aquarium use energy from an artificial light source to convert food into oxygen. If there is not adequate light, plants will die and decay, consuming oxygen instead of producing it. Temperature: Because many fish are restricted to a fairly narrow temperature range and are sensitive to rapid temperature changes, the temperature of the aquarium water must be carefully regulated. Chemical makeup of the water: The overall acid-alkaline range acceptable to almost all fish is reasonably broad, but for fish to be at their best, the pH of the water should be adjusted to the range most suited to the species of fish in the aquarium. Simple tools to measure the pH of the water are available along with the chemicals and instructions needed to adjust the chemical balance of the aquarium water. Aeration and water movement: Plant life provides a limited amount of aeration (oxygen production), but most aquariums have more fish than the vegetation can adequately support. In such cases, oxygen must be provided by alternate means. Water movement is also important for two reasons: (1) It gives active fish in a small aquarium a means of exercising. (2) Waste gasses such as carbon dioxide are circulated to the surface and exchanged with oxygen.

Water cleanliness: Many natural processes that cleanse the environment cannot be duplicated in the aquarium. These conditions include sunlight, flowing water, adequate space, vegetation and microorganisms that play a role in keeping the environment clean. Because your aquarium is small, it usually contains more fish life than other kinds of small animal forms, plants and microorganisms that would normally contribute to cleanliness. For this reason, filters must be used. As water flows through the filter, floating matter is removed and the water passes through a layer of charcoal that helps rid the water of certain dissolved waste materials before returning clean water to the aquarium. Living Space: In a natural habitat, each life form has an adequate measure of space. Many fish are territorial; they are quite determined to find their space in an aquarium and will jealously guard it. Some fish live together in schools, while others live in pairs or prefer to live along. Bottom soil conditions: In nature, bottom soil is often silt or rich nutrients that can support both submerged plants and those that break water, grow and blossom above the surface. Silt in an aquarium is a problem because water movement will stir it around and cloud the water. A loose gravel bottom is best for maintaining a clear water aquarium. Materials: 55 gallon tank with lid and lights (48” long x 13” wide x 21” deep) under gravel filters 50 pounds natural gravel LCD thermometer hydro-clean vacuum Air pump 2 – Malaysian driftwood 2 – 20” bushy foxtail 25’ plastic tubing 2 – Brass 2-way valves small dip net water dechlorinator & conditioner 10’ minnow seine Procedure: Rinse tank thoroughly using tap water. Do not use detergent (the Chemical residue is harmful to fish). Once rinsed, fill the tank with water and let it stand for two to three days to check for possible leaks. If the tank leaks, contact the Aquatic Resources Program. If there are no leaks, drain the tank before installing the under gravel filter. Assemble the underground filter according to the instructions provided on the box and place it in the bottom of the tank. Adjust the tubes so the tops will remain just below the surface of the water where the bubbling action will provide maximum

aeration. Use the tubing to connect the airlift tubes to the air pump. The pump should sit on the back ledge of the aquarium near the middle of the tank in order for it to operate at its full potential. (Instructions provided with the filter will explain how to connect the tubing and gang valves.) New aquarium gravel is unwashed and very dusty. The gravel should be rinsed thoroughly in a colander and the poured over the under gravel filter to a depth of two inches. Be sure to seal the edges well to eliminate any chance of small fish swimming under the filter, becoming trapped and dying. The gravel layer performs several important functions: It creates a pressure plate, ensuring even water flow throughout the tank. It allows for a microbial community to establish itself and function as a biological filter (these microscopic organisms consume the deadly ammonia that fish excrete, and they convert it to a harmless form of nitrogen). It acts as a mechanical filter, trapping particulate matter as the water is drawn down through the gravel. If small particles of fish feces and excess food were to remain suspended in the water, the gills of the fish could be damaged. Solid wastes can be vacuumed from the gravel during water changes, but vacuuming should not be necessary until you start feeding. {About once a month, the gravel will need to be vacuumed and part of the water replaced by new water: siphon off 25-30 percent of the water and use the gravel vacuum to clean the gravel (instructions are provided with the vacuum). Add dechlorinator to replacement water and allow this water to sit overnight to temper before adding it to the aquarium.} Add driftwood and Bushy Foxtail plants to the aquarium. Remember to rinse both the driftwood and the plants before placing them in the aquarium. Be sure that the plants are firmly anchored in the gravel. You may want to add a scattering of small stones of larger sized gravel. Be sure to rinse these rocks before placing them in the tank. These rocks will provide a hiding place for the fish. Fill the aquarium with tap water and add the dechlorinator in the amount specified on the container. You may also want to add a bacteria start-up agent or a small amount of water from an established aquarium. Stick the adhesive thermometer to the outside of the aquarium. Inform your school custodian about the project, he or she may be able to help with the setup or feed on weekends and evenings. Be sure to stress the importance of oxygen for your tank and ask the custodian never to unplug the air pump.

Find another teacher or student experienced with aquaria. He or she may have already experienced some of the problems you may encounter and offer advice. Keep your tank clean. A clean aquarium is much more enjoyable and provides a healthier environment for the fish.

Fish Care Tips:
Adding fish to the aquarium calls for care. You must never just “dump” them in. Your fish will arrive in one or sever bags full of water, water different than the water in your tank. Exposing fish suddenly to any change in water or temperature can cause stress, which could cause your fish to die. Devote your attention first to temperature. Before releasing the fish into the aquarium, the water in the fish bag must be the same temperature as the water in the aquarium. To accomplish this, float the bag in the aquarium until the temperatures match. Release the fish into the tank as gently as possible. Watch the behavior of the fish after you release them into the tank. They may become pale or discolored or hide in the corner in obvious fear. Should they dart about striking the glass or objects in the tank, turn out the lights to make their new home as dim as possible. This has a calming influence. Leave the lights off until the fish shows signs of acclimation to its new environment. The lights may be startling at first, but the fish will soon adjust. It is tempting to think the fish first need food, but that isn’t true. Fish need rest after being placed in a new aquarium. In a day or two, when they have settled down, you can try adding a little food. If they eat it, fine. If they don’t, wait another day before feeding them. They will eat when they are hungry. Watch for any illness that might appear due to the stress of being bagged, transported and introduced to strange waters. Fish are usually at their weakest during this time and certain diseases are quick to develop, such as a skin parasite sometimes called “Ick” (after the parasite’s long name: Ichthyophthirius). Ick causes many tiny white spots to appear all over the fish. A gradual rise of the water temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the first step toward a remedy. Then add a solution of Methylene Blue (in a 5% aqueous solution) to the tank water at a rate of 2 drops per gallon of water (further directions are on the bottle). This treatment must take place outside the aquarium (in a “hospital tank”) because the chemical can kill vegetation. With care, you need not experience these problems. Keep the tank in top shape and the possibility of illness will diminish.

Cleaning Maintenance:
Once an aquarium has begun to function properly, the plants grow quickly and fish and other forms of life thrive. The lamp above the tank illuminates the scene in a way that makes it seem almost like a theater. Once accustomed to people peering at them, the fish seem to ignore their viewers. At this point, the system is at its best. But while everything seems to take care of itself, a lot of natural forces are at work, such as plant growth, aeration and the recycling of waste materials. These processes are ongoing. The equipment in and on your tank enables it to support life. Each piece of equipment plays an important roll in controlling the vital physical factors that create a successful aquarium.

As we have already discussed, one essential physical factor is cleanliness. This depends on the filter. There are two different types of filters on your aquarium: The first filter is the plastic one that hangs on the outside of the tank. Through a series of tubes, water is siphoned out of the aquarium and into the filter box. The water flows down through the filtering material and charcoal, and a small motor driven pump returns the clean water to the tank. The filter material is white. When it becomes dark, remove, rinse and replace it. The second type of filter is the underground filter. Usually, it is a perforated plastic sheet placed on the floor of the aquarium under the gravel. Moved by an air stream from a pump, water is drawn down through the gravel where the particulate matter is trapped. The action of plant growth and microorganisms in the gravel promote the breakdown of waste matter in the water and in the gravel and helps clean the water that is returned to the tank above the gravel. Rooted plants reuse these processed wastes, as do the microorganisms that live in the gravel. Aquarium filters keep the water moving as part of the filtration process. Most hangon units have return nozzles that can be aimed in such a way as to create a constant current of flowing water in the aquarium. This allows for a free exchange at the surface of waste gasses and the re-oxygenation of the water.

Water Changes:
Nothing can be more frightening than discovering that your tank looks like someone poured milk in it and the fish that are alive at the surface are grasping for air. What went wrong? Overfeeding can cause this condition; so can a decaying fish hidden under a rock. During the decaying process, wastes in the water consume the available oxygen and life for fish is impossible. At this point, it is necessary to do an instant water change of about half of the water in the tank. Usually, new water going into a tank should be aged several days, but in this situation you cannot wait. The fouled water must be removed and fresh water put back in as quickly as possible. The temperature and the pH of the new water must match the old, but that won’t take long.

Aerators are small diaphragm pumps designed to pump air to one or two airstones. An airstone is a porous stone material on the end of a flexible air hose. The stone, connected to the air hose, is dropped to the bottom of the tank, where it creates a fine mist of bubbles. Air bubbles rise to the top and waste gas is exchanged for oxygen at the water surface. Place an airstone into the tank to help circulate the water and increase surface gas exchange. Then turn off the heater and filters to avoid damage. With all the electrical equipment off, siphon out at least half the water in the tank and throw it out. Turn on the water in your sink and try to match the temperature to that of the tank. Put a clean bucket under the faucet and then use your thumb to create a strong spray action, enough so that it froths as it flows and fills the bucket. This action removes most of the chlorine that may be present in the water. Carefully pour the new water into the tank and repeat this until the tank is full. When the tank is full, turn on all electrical equipment. If the tank is still clean and clear after several hours of filtration, your problem is solved.

There are as many different types of food as there are fish, ranging from all-purpose foods most fish will eat to the special diet food of tropical fish. Never over feed. Too much food could lead to trouble. Only feed what the fish can eat in a short period of time. A good rule of thumb is to use as much fish food as you would use pepper on eggs. Most fish will eat conventional fish food, usually a dry food that sprinkles out of a can. This food can be purchased at most grocery or discount stores. Many frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, are easily obtainable at pet stores that sell fish. They add variety to the diet of the fish. Remember to store this food in your refrigerator until it is to be used. As you learn to understand behavior of your fish, you will soon be able to sense when they are hungry. Don’t’ forget the fish food you find all around you. Nature can provide an abundance of food such as insects, worms and grubs. Catch them, toss them into the aquarium and watch what happens.

Fish can be obtained in any stream, pond, river or other natural waterway near your school. Remember that fish of different species like to have their own space. For example, catfish like the bottom, while bream like the middle and others like the top. We have provided you with a seine that you can use to help collect your study subjects. Largemouth bass are very aggressive and special consideration should be given before deciding to use them as an aquarium species. They are forage eaters, which means they eat other fish. The require small fish and larger numbers of aquarium occupants.

NOTE: To be healthy, fish need enough room to swim and move around. A good rule is to
have one inch of fish for each gallon of water in your aquarium (i.e. a ten gallon tank should have at most then inches of fish total length; a fifty gallon tank should have no more than 50 inches of fish total length. This “total” length can be divided in any number of ways. For example, in a ten gallon tank you could have one fish that is ten inches long, two fish that are five inches long, or five fish that are two inches long, etc. After some time, many of these species will grow too large to live in the aquarium. If you have a fish that has grown too large, you can return that fish to the water from which it came. Use the same techniques as bagging and temperature acclimation to prepare the fish for a new environment. Remember that a sudden temperature change of as little as three degrees can put a fish into shock and kill it.

Students will enjoy monitoring and graphing water quality parameters. Monitor dissolved oxygen, pH levels, temperature, etc. These can be compared and charted over time with other sites or tanks.