FAQ: Welcome to Rec.Aquaria.*

contributed by Todd Zebert
edited by Erik Olson

Welcome to the rec.aquaria.* newsgroups! Please read this entire document and whatever FAQs it may suggest before your first posting. We hope this will help you get the most from the newsgroups, and aid you in getting along with the people already here.

This document will tell you about:

  1. the FAQs (answers to Frequently Asked Questions); what they are, and where to find them.
  2. Other Web Sites?
  3. proper etiquette for posting to rec.aquaria.*
  4. common acronyms and other terms used here.
  5. common questions (with answers) asked about the rec.aquaria.* newsgroups.
There are several Usenet newsgroups collectively referred to as rec.aquaria.*. They compose an international forum for the discussion of almost everything related to aquaria and keeping fish. If you are new to the aquarium hobby, you will find them a valuable source of advice. If you are an advanced hobbyist but new to the Usenet forum, we welcome your input and hope you will find some interesting discussions and the new information that you need to keep current.

If you have questions about Usenet, newsgroups, posting messages, the net in general, general netiquette, writing standards, how to FTP, etc., the answers can be found in the news.announce.newusers group. This is the single most important group for someone new to the net who wants to get acquainted with the system. Some of the important files (all written by Mark Moraes) in news.answers you should check out are:

Just the FAQ, Ma'am

Before posting for help, please read as much of the FAQs as you can. Really! They will most likely tell you everything you want to know about almost every beginner issue (if they don't answer your question, WE want to know!). Reading them should be your first order of business and is a simple courtesy to the readers of these newsgroups who get tired of reading the same questions from newcomers, over and over.

The FAQs are available in three forms: World Wide Web, FTP, and monthly Usenet postings. The best and easiest way to read them is through World Wide Web at the URL

Outside the U.S., you may get faster access through another mirror site, which are listed at the URL above.

Many of the FAQs are also posted on the aquaria groups, and news.answers on a monthly basis. A bit of searching through articles with the subject ``FAQ'' should bring up the latest copies. One word of caution: now that the groups have been split, not all FAQs are posted to all newsgroups; some may be only found on relevant groups.

If you do not have web access but do have ftp access, these text-only versions can also be downloaded from the Usenet FAQ archive at

Other Web Sites

With the explosive growth of the web over the past few years, there are so many sites coming and going that it's impossible to name them here. One way to find them is to use your favorite search engine. Another good "jumping off place" is Fish Link Central, at The old Caltech index at is being phased out, but should remain for a time.

Posting to rec.aquaria.*

If the following instructions seem unclear, read the newsgroups for a few weeks (called ``lurking'') and you'll get the hang of the way things work. There are many readers of rec.aquaria.*, some are old pros, some newcomers, but all would appreciate it if you would follow a few simple requests when posting. Remember, you're asking them for help so you should play by their rules!

1) If you've looked around for the information requested, but come up with contradictory information, no information, or don't understand the information, please say so. This will show that you've been actively seeking out the information yourself.

Also, PLEASE PLEASE do not buy a fish and THEN ask the newsgroup how you can properly care for it. Ask questions FIRST and read as much as you can BEFORE buying the fish. Allow several days for people to get back to you. Most stores will hold a fish for you if you ask. It also does not hurt to introduce yourself, and come to know the owner or some of the employees at your favorite store. They will be more willing to do things for you if they know you are a loyal customer. It is poor husbandry to buy a fish not knowing if you can keep it healthy.

2) Fill in the rest of the subject line with a brief description of the problem or a couple of words that describe the concern of the post. A descriptive subject line is more likely to get read and responded to than a vague one (``Goldfish has white spots'' is better than ``Help!!'').

3) When asking for help, please give a complete description of your tank size, lighting, filtration, its inhabitants and their sizes**, how long you've had it running, measures of water quality such as ammonia, pH, temperature, etc. You can't expect much of an answer (or any at all!) unless you include enough information. (i.e. not ``HI, My fish died! Why? Bye'')

**Fish sizes are measured from the tip of their head to the beginning of their tail fin (where the tail meets the body).

4) Please do not use all capital letters. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING!

5) Make sure your newsreader is limiting line length to a maximum of 75 characters (or columns) otherwise it will be difficult for others to read your post! If you don't know how to do this, ask your network administrator.

6) Do not post pictures to the rec.aquaria.* groups. Graphics in general take lots of bandwidth, and are in general disallowed in "non-binaries" groups. If the picture is available on a web site, instead include the URL where others can find it. There is a special group created on the alt. heirarchy for fish pictures, alt.binaries.aquaria. Depending on whether your ISP carries so-called "binary newsgroups", it may or may not be accessible (if in doubt, ask them).

Responding to Posts

When responding to a post, most newsreaders will include the original message with some sort of character prefixed on every line, usually a greater-than symbol, ``>''. Please delete as much unnecessary information from the original post as possible, while still maintaining continuity of the conversation. This includes extraneous headers and information from the previous post that is not relevant to the reply.

Terms and Acronyms

As you read posts in these newsgroups, you're likely to come across the following terms, acronyms, and conventions commonly referred to as NETSPEAK:
rec.aquaria, rec.aquaria.*
Collectively refers to all groups in the rec.aquaria heirarchy.
As far as I know
Four popular aquaria magazines: Aquarium Fish Magazine, Marine Fish Magazine, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and Freshwater and Marine Aquarium.
America Online, CompuServe Information Systems; two commercial Internet providers.
By The Way.
cut, snip
Means part of previous post has been removed.
Do It Yourself, home made, a device or system that is built by the hobbyist.
Frequently Asked Question[s].
A message which is abusive (see below)
For Sale.
File Transfer Protocol, and HyperText Transfer Protocol, two method of transferring files.
Freshwater, Saltwater
For What It's Worth.
For Your Information.
HyperText Markup Language, used for creating web pages.
In My Humble Opinion, In My Opinion, In My Not-So-Humble Opinion, etc.
Local Fish Store
reading a newsgroup, over a period of time, to gain knowledge from other people's questions and answers, without posting anything of your own.
Mail Order
Four M/O businesses: Mail Order Pet Shop, Pet Warehouse, That Fish Place, and Wet Thumb Aquatics.
Net etiquette. The golden rule is: RTFF!
A beginner. Often, but not always, used in a derogatory way. Don't feel too bad if someone calls another a newbie.
On The Other Hand.
An unfortunate correlation between Plocestomus Catfish deaths and mention of their name on the net has led to the use of `pl*co' as a superstitious habit. For our protection, the fish's full name has been deliberately misspelled above.
message[s] on Usenet
The rec.aquaria re-organization.
Rolling On The Floor Laughing.
Read the ``fine'' Manual, or FAQ. Usually directed at people who ask a question without first checking the obvious places to find the answer. Substitute expletives beginning with F for ``fine'', if you like.
Siamese Algae Eater (see the ALGAE FAQ).
The initial message and all the following replies to it, a discussion.
Thanks In Advance
Undergravel Filter, Reverse Under Gravel Filter.
Wet/Dry Filter
Wanted To Buy.
WWW, W3, web
World Wide Web
Your Mileage May Vary, basically just because something works well in one situation, does not mean it will in another.
Smileys :-) ;-) :-(
(turn the page, monitor or your head to one side if you don't see it at first). Smileys are used to denote emotions that might otherwise not be understood from the text, e.g. explicitly point out a statement is meant to be humorous. The three shown here denote humor, a wink, and sadness, respectively.

Questions & Answers

Q: What's up with all these different groups?

A: Due to the sheer volume of postings on the original newsgroups, a proposal was passed by Usenet readers in March of 1996 splitting rec.aquaria into several sub-groups. The official charter of the new groups can be found in our FAQ ANNEX. Meanwhile, the old group rec.aquaria has been phased out (effectively replaced by rec.aquaria.misc), so you should not post to it. Please avoid crossposting (posting to multiple newsgroups) whenever possible, especially to the .misc groups.
A general discussion group for topics not covered by the other groups, and topics that are appropriate to more than one group (rather than crossposting). Post here if the topic doesn't fit neatly into the usual freshwater/marine division (notably brackish aquaria), but does not have a large enough following to warrant a separate newsgroup at this time. Post here if the topic is of broad interest to many types of aquarists. Also appropriate are such things as pointers to more specific newsgroups, ftp and web sites, and other ``meta-issues.'' If you don't know where to post it, it probably belongs here.
Topics specific to freshwater aquaria which do not fit into one of the more specialized newsgroups, as well as topics which fit into multiple specific freshwater newsgroups.
Topics specific to marine aquaria which do not fit into one of the more specialized newsgroups, as well as topics which fit into multiple specific marine newsgroups.
Allows ads to be found easily without burying or being buried in general discussion. Ads related to aquaria and aquarium products and inhabitants by private individuals and businesses.
While the organisms and special techniques vary, both freshwater and marine aquaria face a similar set of fundamental problems and often rely on similar devices in their solution. Discussion about the technology of aquarium keeping, including homebuilt gadgets as well as commercial devices. Discussions of the technical details of such devices belong here, though the rationale for their use may be just as appropriate in another newsgroup.
All topics related to both old- and new-world cichlids.
All topics related to goldfish and their kin.
Another specialized group, home to any and all discussion about freshwater plants. Topics may span the entire range of beginner to expert. Samples: ``My goldfish keeps destroying my plants,'' ``How do you grow Echinodorus horemanii?''
The fundamental division of the marine hobby is into reef and non-reef aquarists. This group provides a home for reef specialists while allowing non-reef aquarists to avoid the large number of reef related posts.

Q: What about alt.aquaria and sci.aquaria?

A: alt.aquaria is a historical remnant from the original newsgroup creation wars of 1989. The full story behind this is now a fascinating net.legend. We recommend that you not post to alt.aquaria as the rec.aquaria.* groups are in place. Nonetheless, the group continues to receive traffic more than two years after the revision.

Sci.aquaria's unofficial purpose is for more serious `scientific' discussion. Now that the new rec.aquaria.* groups are in place, there is no need to crosspost to sci.aquaria. This group receives very little traffic.

Q: Are there any other related groups? Mailing Lists? Chat Lines?

A: None of these other groups are supported by this documentation or any of its FAQs or archives, but they do have related themes: There are also some E-mailing lists. Here are some we know about:
List Name	Server Address			   What to Send as Message Body

Discus-L		   SUBSCRIBE Discus-L
Cichlids,          subscribe cichlid Your Name
Dwarf Cichlids	   subscribe Your Name
Aquatic Plants		   subscribe aquatic-plants
Goldfish subscribe goldfish
Killies    subscribe killies

For instance, to subscribe to the Aquatic Plants list, send e-mail to with the line "subscribe aquatic-plants" as the message body.

Finally, there are interactive ``chat'' services, such as Fishroom, a classy virtual meeting place resembling the ultimate fish nerd's dream house. Fishroom was set up by Kevin Carpenter, and is accessible 24 hours a day. Specialized groups now have meeting times when you might be able to talk to some experts. Simply

telnet 1025

and follow the directions. It is important to telnet to port 1025, or else you will get a normal boring unix prompt. Further help is available on the WWW, or via anonymous ftp from

Q: Can I post Non-commercial Advertisements?

A: Yes! There is a newsgroup just for you: rec.aquaria.marketplace, which is open to both commercial and private advertisements. Here are some guidelines:

Q4: Can I post Commercial Advertisements?

A: If you are an aquarium-related business, as of the March 1996 re-organization, you may post to rec.aquaria.marketplace without guilt. Beware, though, that non-advertisement posts from companies and their representatives may be subject to scrutiny by wary rec.aquaria.* readers. General guidelines for acceptable advertising on usenet can be found in the ADVERTISEMENT FAQ posted to news.announce.newusers. Here are some tips for keeping a friendly commercial presence on the rec.aquaria newsgroups:

Q: Why did no one answer my questions?

A: This question is usually answered by ``YOU DIDN'T READ THE FAQ!'' The FAQs are a collection of documents that members of these newsgroups have written to answer questions that beginners ask ad nauseum. Before posting, please read the relevant FAQs to be sure what you wish to know has not been dealt with before. Despite the world-wide nature of rec.aquaria.*, there are in fact only a few dozen members who answer the vast majority of questions. They get tired of answering the same questions over and over, and more often than not will simply ignore questions that could have been answered by reading the FAQ.

Sometimes you won't get a reply if you haven't waited long enough; many people do not read rec.aquaria.* daily, and it can take a few days for the article to propagate to some hosts.

Another common cause of the unanswered post is a non-descriptive subject line or vague message content. With hundreds of messages posted daily to rec.aquaria.*, it is easy to ignore ``irrelevant'' subject lines such as ``Subject: My Fish''. Likewise, it is also important to convey all the necessary information in the body of your message. See the section above on Posting to rec.aquaria.* for hints on improving your technique.

Finally, the reason may be that nobody really feels confident enough to answer your question, and everybody is hoping someone else will answer. If you mention that nobody answered a previous post, you may get a lot of answers. They may not be helpful, but you will get them!

Q5: Why did I get flamed?

A5: You may get flamed if you supply an ignorant answer to someone's question, or just general ``bad advice''. Bad questions usually are ignored, but bad answers are often flamed. You might also get flamed when discussing controversial issues.

Threads on rec.aquaria.* are open uncensored conversations between adults (and sub-adults of all ages) and so occasionally smart-ass replies and jabs are made. These are not strictly discouraged and to throw flames DOES NOT immediately cause one to be labeled a social pariah, but flames should be on-topic and delivered with a sense of humor. Neither is swearing totally unacceptable on the net but the use of swear words will quickly remove any semblance of humor from your flames. This may result in seriously hurt feelings, and so swearing is to be strongly discouraged. Also, a few smileys (where appropriate) can go a long way to save people's feelings.

Final Words

We hope that this introductory FAQ will improve your understanding of the rec.aquaria community, and make your interaction with other netters fun and productive. A great deal of time and thought has been devoted to making quality answers to the Frequently Asked Questions available at all times. A hurried post to the newsgroups might not yield an answer for days (if at all), but if you read the FAQs you may have an answer in minutes. Please give it a try!

[The FAQ Team can be reached by e-mail, but since we've been getting so many irrelevant requests for help with individual problems, the address will no longer be posted here.]

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The FAQs owe their existence to the contributors of the net, and as such it belongs to the readers of rec.aquaria and alt.aquaria. Articles with attributions are copyrighted by their original authors. Copies of the FAQs can be made freely, as long as it is distributed at no charge, and the disclaimers and the copyright notice are included.
The official home site of the FAQ is maintained by Erik Olson as part of the The Krib.