Category Archives: Hobby

How to Setup a New Aquarium

Carefully lift the tank into position on top of the styrofoam, making sure it is square with the base. If undergravel filtration has been chosen, the bottom of the tank should be completely covered with UG plates, assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the size of the tank, one or more uplifts should be fitted at this stage. As a general rule, a 60cm (24in) or smaller aquarium will require only one uplift, while a 90cm (36in) one should have an uplift in each rear corner. The larger the tank, the more uplifts are needed.

 How to Setup a New Aquarium

Creating the underwater scene

Once the foundation rocks and substrate have been positioned, other forms of decorative material can be arranged, e.g. bogwood, flowerpots, slate, ceramic drainpipes, and cork bark.

If digging fish are to be housed, everything must be secured to prevent rockfalls or other toppling items falling against the glass and cracking it! Silicone sealant or underwater epoxy resin can be used to secure pieces that are a potential risk. Avoid making unstable piles of rocks from small left-over pieces – they always fall over, perhaps trapping fish, damaging plants, or even shattering the aquarium.

Bogwood and cork bark have a tendency to float until they become thoroughly waterlogged, which, under normal circumstances, may take several weeks. To enable such materials to be used immediately, they can be weighted down by attaching them to rocks using nylon fishing line or strong cotton. This sort of arrangement is etisily camouflaged using plants and the like.

Room to manoeuvre

At this stage do not overwhelm the aquarium with roekwork and other decorations. Space must be left for the addition of heaters, in-tank filters and other devices.

Plants will also appreciate room to grow and develop, and fish must have space to swim about in!


Immersion heaters are normally provided with a ‘holder’ – a clip with suckers – to attach them to the glass, so that water can circulate freely around them. Heaters in contact with, for example, the substrate, or which are not fully submerged, may overheat and crack their tubes. Heater/stats are best positioned at an angle of about 45 degrees and in a good flow of water. Heat rises, so this prevents the thermostat from detecting the heat from the element too soon and prematurely disconnecting, with the result that the aquarium fails to be maintained at the preset temperature. Likewise, if using ‘separates’, do not position in-tank heaters close to thermostat sensors. Heater/stats and external thermostats are best wired into a circuit without a switch, either to a cable tidy or straight to the mains. In this way, the heating cannot be switched off accidentally.

The heating system can be installed once the aquarium has been filled with water, but should not be switched on yet. Don’t forget the thermometer!

Installing an air pump

Air pumps are commonly sited beneath the tank and the tubing run up to the top of the aquarium.

Unfortunately, when the power is off (intentionally or because of a power cut), the airline can act as a siphon, drawing water from the tank, through the air pump, and onto the floor! Avoid this by fitting an anti-siphon device between the pump outlet(s) and the device(s) supplied. If there are several of the latter, a set of gang valves will distribute the air as required. Wire the air pump and any other electrical equipment operating biological filtration to an unswitched terminal to avoid accidental disconnection.

Starting up

The hood, complete with fluorescent tubes, can now be positioned and the control unit connected to the cable tidy or multisocket.

Check the wiring one last time, and if all is in order, connect the cable tidy or multisocket to the main electrical supply and switch on. As the water will be cold, the heater should now be operating and its ‘on’ indicator light illuminated. If not, then disconnect everything from the mains and feel the heater: it should be warm. If not, recheck the wiring. If it is correct, you should suspect a faulty piece of equipment (another good reason why livestock are not introduced at this stage!). If you have a professional electrician assisting, he will be able to test all the electric circuitry and equipment electronically, locating any problems quickly and easily.

The filtration should also be switched on to test that it works. Many aquarists, however, prefer to start their filters running permanently a day or two after the tank has been planted, to allow the plants a chance to start rooting before subjecting them to a current. The lighting can also be tested, but it is unnecessary to leave it on until the plants have been introduced.

Over the next 24 hours, the aquarium water will reach approximate operating temperature, although some fine adjustment may be necessary. Expect a range of 1 to 1.5ˇăC (2 to 3ˇăF) between on and off -this is perfectly acceptable. Pump and/or air flow adjustments may also prove inevitable before a perfect balance is achieved.

How to Select and Organize a Campsite while Backpacking

Once you arrive at the place where you plan to spend the night, look around for a good area to pitch your tent. You’ll want to avoid obvious drainages (low points that funnel water). These might flood in case of rain, and the soil can be unstable in these areas. Look for a relatively flat areaˇŞsleeping on a slope is uncomfortable.

Make sure you pick a spot at least 100 yards away from the trail and any water sources. Avoid meadows and bogs, since tents and footprints leave permanent marks in their soft, wet soil. Find a place with enough open space to accommodate your dropcloth, tent, cooking area, and any supplies or equipment you will have nearby. If you’re in a group, you may want enough space for a “community area” where everyone can sit around, cook and eat together.

When you leave your campsite, take a final look around to ensure there are no obvious signs of you having been there.

campsite backpacking How to Select and Organize a Campsite while Backpacking

Look overheadˇŞmake sure there are no dead branches or dangerous looking pine cones above the place where you plan to sleep, cook, eat, and sit.

Once you have found a good spot for sleeping, lay out your dropcloth in the place you plan to pitch your tent or set up a tarp. If there’s enough room, leave space between tent sites to ensure a little more privacy, (after all no one wants to hear you snore).

Check to make sure there’s nothing sharp or hard underneath the drop cloth that could puncture the floor of the tent or keep you awake at night. Move aside any pine cones, rocks, branches, etc., that will be in the way, and set them nearby – you should scatter them back over the area before you leave. Try to leave the site in the same shape as you found. You should leave no sign of your brief visit to the wilderness.

Some people like to dig a small trench around their tent or tarp to keep running water from entering or pooling underneath the dropcloth. If you expect heavy rain, you might want to do this, but in general avoid making permanent disruptions or alterations to the campsite.

After setting up your tent, unroll your sleeping pad and take your sleeping bag out of its stuff sack. If the pad is the inflatable type it’s good to give it several minutes to expand and fill with air. (Back home, be sure to store it in a flat and unrolled position so the foam doesn’t become permanently flattened.) Do the same for down bagsˇŞtake them out of their stuff sacks so the down can regain its loft before you climb inside for the night.

If you plan to use your inflatable pad for lounging on around the campsite, make sure it’s protected with a durable cover. The company that manufactures these padsˇŞCascade DesignsˇŞnow produces a cover that converts the pad into a comfortable camp chair. If you are using an ensolite or neoprene pad you do not have to worry about punctures, but watch for sharp sticks poking through the pad or causing tears, or heat from the stove which can melt both types of pads.

Once everyone has selected a sleeping area (with or without a tent), look for a good “kitchen.” Chances are you will not have a table, but look around for boulders or logs of convenient heights for cooking on. If none are available, be ready to do a lot of sitting as you cook and eat on the ground. Avoid moving large things to accommodate your desire for “furniture.” Rearranging small rocks and logs is OK as long you do not damage anything, and return everything to their original place.

If you use rocks near the cooking area do not allow them to become blackened from stoves or campfires. Make sure trash bags are kept near the kitchen to hold all wrappers, peelings, leftovers, and garbage that will be packed back out. Do not let trash blow away from the campsite, and make sure trash bags are secured for the night so small animals can’t chew through the bags and scatter it around.

When you leave your campsite, take a final look around to ensure there are no obvious signs of you having been there. Use a leafy branch to sweep away tent imprints, and pick up any last pieces of trash you may have overlooked.

“Leave the place better than you found it, and encourage others to do the same…”

How to Prepare a New Aquarium

Once the decision to purchase a fish tank has been made, it is easy to get carried away by the excitement, and completely disregard advance planning; and we must stress once again that planning is essential at every stage, not least when it comes to setting up, i.e. installing the tank, equipment and decor chosen earlier. It should be clear by now that buying a complete aquarium set-up and fish/plants on the same day is a recipe for disaster. The equipment will, of course, survive, but the fish will not!

This article is designed to lead you through setting up a basic aquarium, although everyone’s set-up will be different and procedures may have to be altered to accommodate the individual. It is strongly recommended that a specific plan of action, based on these general principles, is drawn up to suit every new aquarium. Your plan should include a timetable, especially if there are glues and paints needing time to dry and/or you need to organize outside help.

aquarium planning How to Prepare a New Aquarium

Before you start, it is worth reviewing once again the suitability of your chosen site as regards viewing potential, accessibility, safety, access to electricity, water, light levels and drainage. Once the tank is installed it will be too late for second thoughts!

Making preparations

It is essential, before you start, to make sure you have all the necessary aquarium equipment and all the tools required at the ready, plus any assistants you may need. Not everyone is fully conversant with electrical wiring, although most aquarium procedures are straightforward, so the help of an electrician or experienced hobbyist may be necessary, if only to demonstrate so that you can do the same job should it be necessary at a later date. Tanks are heavy items and many will require the assistance of one or more fit adults to lift them. All other surplus members of the family (especially excited young children and pets) are best encouraged to go to the park, or otherwise excluded until the majority of the work is completed.

As we are dealing with water, gravel and rocks, a certain amount of mess is to be expected. Make sure carpets are protected with plastic sheeting or several layers of newspaper. That way any spillage can be quickly and effectively cleared up without permanent damage.

Dress for the occasion – glass is very dangerous stuff, so wear stout gloves and shoes when moving your aquarium, and make sure arms and legs are covered, even in hot weather.

Fitting the background

It is generally best to measure up and fix the background when the tank is empty and before positioning it, as the task becomes increasingly difficult when the tank is against a wall, full, or you are fighting electric wires.

Plasticized ‘backgrounds on a roll’ are easily attached using adhesive tape. If you wish to paint the back, the glass must first be thoroughly de-greased with methylated spirits (or other ‘cleaning’ alcohol), otherwise the paint will soon peel off. Cork tiles and other buoyant materials mounted inside the tank should be stuck into place using silicone sealant if they are not to pop up to the surface within a few days! At least 24 hours will generally be needed for paints and glues to dry, before you can proceed.

Preparing the interior decor

Meanwhile, the substrate and rockwork can be washed. This is a time-consuming job, but is essential if murky, polluted water is to be avoided. It also provides an opportunity to check for ‘foreign bodies’ that might pollute the water, ‘faking a few handfuls at a time, put the substrate into a sieve or bucket and wash under a running tap until clean, stirring with tt wooden or plastic spoon, or hands, until the water runs clear. Rocks are best scrubbed in hot water (without soap) to get them scrupulously clean.

At this stage, decorative structures that require glueing can be constructed. Silicone sealant or underwater epoxy resin is ideal for attaching rock to rock, wood to wood, or rock to wood. Ensure that the components are completely clean and dry, otherwise they will fall apart very quickly once under water, and allow at least 24 hours’ drying time before use.

How to Plan a Backpacking Trip Food Menu

Breakfast: Hot cereals are a popular choice. Use one pot to boil water for coffee, hot cocoa or tea, followed by adding enough oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc. for a whole family. Or, to keep the pot clean, simply boil water and pour it over individual servings of instant oatmeal in each person’s bowl. For added carbohydrates and flavor, add raisins, dried fruit, brown sugar and cinammon, or other seasonings as desired. For added protein and vitamins, mix in dry milk powder.

If you like eggs, they can be carried in specially designed plastic containers, or cracked open and packed in wide-mouthed water bottles (but only if you plan to use them within a day or two). Otherwise, I’ve found dried eggs to be reasonably tasty substitutes for making omelettes and scrambled eggs. Bring along sun dried tomatoes and other seasoning powders to mix in for flavor. Just remember you’ll need a frying pan and oil for preparing them. For easy clean up, and to keep oils to a minimum, choose a pan with a non-stick teflon like coating.

backpacking food How to Plan a Backpacking Trip Food Menu

Complete pancake mixes are commonly available in supermarkets. They only require water to prepare the batter, and once again, fruits, chocolate chips and others goodies can be added for flavor.
Lunch: Since this often takes place on the trail, keep it simple. If you like sandwiches, make them with bagels or pita bread, which pack better than traditional sliced loaves. Ifyou like cheese, select the kinds that are wrapped in waxˇŞthey will keep for several days without refrigeration.
For children, the ever-popular peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a good choice. Use reusable plastic tubes (available in backpacking stores) which can be filled with a mix of the two ingredients. Then, simply squeeze the blend out onto the bagels or pita at lunchtime.

For short trips, fresh fruits and vegetables, such as pre-sliced carrot and celery sticks, are also healthy lunch snacks. They can be carried in the wide-mouthed water bottles. Spice them up with dips of hummous, flavored cheese spreads, etc. Leftovers can be diced up and added to the dinner pot.

Dinner: A large pot of pasta can be supplemented with a can of meat, various vegetables, or simply eaten as is. Use dried milk powder to thicken up sauces and add protein, vitamins and minerals.

For simplicity, dinner is one meal where pre-packaged backpacking food comes in handy. I like the quick-cooking freeze-dried Mountain Chili made by Alpine Aire. It has a good flavor on its own, and it’s vegetarian, as it contains a mix of pinto beans, soy protein and corn, making it a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates.

It used to be, when choosing between prepackaged freeze-dried foods and supermarket items, it was the old “time vs. money” trade-off. But now, there are many supermarket items that are quick and easy to prepare. Look for instant soup mixes that can be turned into a thick casserole or stew with the addition of quick-cooking pasta shells and a can of tuna.

I’ve also noticed more and more items in natural food stores that would be suitable for backpacking. These include dried hummous (ground up garbanzo bean paste) which turns into a tasty and nutritious spread when mixed with water. For vegetarians, I’ve even seen freeze-dried tofu!

How to Pack a Backpack

For years, we taught beginning backpack students to carry no more than 25% of their body weight in their backpack, but this generalization no longer holds true. For a small inexperienced backpacker, even 25% of their weight may be too much for them to carry. For a large, experienced, strong backpacker, 25% may be hardly enough weight for them to notice (an experienced backpacker will be more confident and comfortable carrying a heavier pack than a beginner).

For a group or family, the best solution is to distribute the weight among each person based on their strength and ability level. If you all feel loaded down and can’t pack anything else, and there’s still some unpacked clothes or gear lying around, it’s time to reconsider how much you’re trying to carry. It’s important to have the equipment you need when you reach your campsite, but you do not want to lose a camper due to exhaustion or injury along the trail because they are carrying too much weight.

packing backpacks How to Pack a Backpack

In general, men seem to prefer keeping the weight in their backpacks high and close to the body to help maintain a good sense of balance. Women’s center of balance is lower, near the hips, so they may prefer to pack their heavy gear lower in the pack.

There are also a few differences between the way you load an internal versus external frame pack. One similarity between internal and external packs is in the way sleeping bags are carriedˇŞ both types of packs are designed to carry them at the bottom. Most external frames carry the sleeping bag strapped onto the frame on the outside of the pack itself. This means you need a sturdy waterproof stuff sack to store the bag in to protect it from rain, sharp branches along the trail, etc. Internal frame backpacks also carry the sleeping bag at the very bottom of the back, but typically they have room inside for the sleeping bag, in a separate compartment located at the bottom.

The next “level,” as you move up the pack, is the area near your lower torso. Many people prefer to use; this level for heavier and denser equipment, such as cookpots, food, stoves, etc., and also for equipment that is not used frequently throughout the day. This is because this gear will be covered with other equipment, clothing, etc., and therefore is more difficult to reach. Keep things like water, snacks, first aid kit, warm jacket and raingearˇŞthe items you might need in a hurryˇŞpacked closer to the top of the pack.

Most people strap their lightweight sleeping pad at the very top of the pack, either by securing it under the flap that covers the top opening or via attachment points and straps on the top pocket. In many packs, the top flap or pocket also contains small storage compartments for maps, compasses, sunglasses, and other small, lightweight items that are nice to have handy. These pockets can also be reached by one of your hiking buddies. On brief water or snack breaks, when there’s not enough time to stop and take off backpacks, it’s not unusual for people to reach into each other’s packs and find water bottles, snack bars, etc. that are loaded in these top pockets.

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