SOMETHING FISHY: A beginner’s guide to keeping tropical fish

Everyone should have a pet. Some people may be put off by the idea of having to clean up poop or be woken up by loud squawking every day, but your choice of pet doesn’t necessarily have to be something cuddly that you can play catch with or teach to talk.

Pearl Gourami - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesTropical fish are a great alternative. Not only are fish therapeutically pleasing and interesting animals, but they can be very easy to look after. You may consider pet fish as boring, but you would be amazed at the variety, colours and characters inherent in tropical fish.

I have been keeping freshwater tropical fish since my childhood years and have learned a great deal regarding what to get and how to look after a great array of fishy friends.

Tropical Fish Care: Starting off

If you wish to invest in your first tropical fish tank it’s a good idea to go large. Starting off small is not necessarily easier and once you get into such a hobby (and your fish grow) you will want to upgrade. This can be a mission and comes at a cost.

Black Moor Goldfish - Freshwater Tropical FishInvest in a large, rectangular shaped tank (100 liters is a good volume) and first ensure that you have a good place to house it. A fish tank stand is a good idea but ensure that the tank will rest at a comfortable eye-level.

It is also important to keep your tank away from direct sunlight as this will encourage rapid algae growth. You don’t want to have to scrap away algae in order to have a good look at who is inside.

Keep your setup as varied as possible. It’s best to have sections of both soft and gravel substrate. Keep your tank well planted and create lots of hiding places. Add caves, tubes and rock tunnels and decorate as you see fit.

Tropical Fish Care: The Nitrogen Cycle

In technical terms, the Nitrogen Cycle process is called "nitrification", which is the oxidation of nitrogen by bacteria. It takes time for a new aquarium to balance by removing all of the waste material (ammonia) and reducing it to a less toxic substance (nitrate). Fortunately, dechlorinating tap water is as easy as adding a few drops of dechlorinating solution and takes mere seconds to get to work.

Once your tank is filled up with dechlorinated water and you have finished creating your underwater Eden, there is a short waiting period to endure. With a heater installed and set between 25-27 degrees Celsius, and a good filter running, you tank will begin to perform a nitrogen cycle. Your local pet store will provide you with instructions on how to do this correctly.

ghost knife fish - Freshwater Tropical FishAfter completing the above you are now ready to get your first tropical fish! It is a good idea to only get a few fish at first and ensure that they are perfectly cheerful before getting more. It is also very important to research each tropical fish species beforehand to understand their needs and requirements and temperament with other fish.

There is tons of infomation available on the web - written by dedicated tropical fish hobbyists who are more than willing to give expert advice to beginners. However, I can recommend the following fish families as good choices for the beginner: Corydoras, Gouramis, Clown Loaches, Black Ghost Knife fish, Algae Eaters and Tetras.

The following post: Something Fishy, consists of tropical fish profiles (including all the info you’ll need for good care) of the following:

  • Fire Eel
  • Angelfish
  • Dwarf Gourami - Freshwater Tropical FishClown Loach
  • Glass Catfish
  • Julii Corydora
  • Red Tail Shark
  • Pearl Gourami
  • Fancy Goldfish
  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Bronze Corydora
  • Black Ghost Knife
  • Pleco (Algae Eater)
  • Banded Kuhli Loach
  • Black Moor Goldfish
  • Blue Ramirezi (Blue Ram)

If you're interested in starting your own hobby in keeping tropical fish I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have. Otherwise here are some great resources below.

More Freshwater Tropical Fish Care Posts:

Fish Tanks - shop online for fish tanks and pet care products for house hold pets at low internet prices and fast home delivery service - petsboutiques.eu

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WoW: A beginner's guide to what World of Warcraft is all about

THERE are currently over 12 million people that play World of Warcraft (more commonly known as WoW by its fans). That’s the size of a small country. Wow. A community of that magnitude is worthy of recognition in my books. I have always been hesitant about entering this online realm – concerned that I would have to sign away a portion of my life if I did.WoW logo

However, I have always been curious to know what the appeal is and how the game ropes in so many players – many of which spend the majority of their waking hours living in this virtual world. I scoured all the websites, forums and wikis dedicated to the game and thought I’d share what I found regarding this thriving fantasy world.

What is World of Warcraft
WoW is known as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in which thousands of players can interact within the same virtual world. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, undertake game quests and interact with one another in the Warcraft universe known as Azeroth.

WoW has a massive visual appeal and since its release in 2004, has received rave reviews and won numerous awards all over the world. These include Best PC Game, Best Multiplayer Game, Best RPG and Most Addictive Game. It was also honoured at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games. Critics have described the WoW environment as a careful blend of cartoon, fantasy art, and realism.

Who lives in WoW
What distinguishes WoW from other virtual online worlds such as Second Life, is that it is pure fantasy. It has more of a Lord of the Rings vibe rather than being a replica of real human living.

Players can choose between ten races, such as dwarves, orcs, humans and elves each of which have unique racial traits. There is something of a racial divide among the races as they are separated into two warring factions: the Alliance and the Horde. A description from the WoW website reads:

“Characters can only talk, group, and create guilds with players from their own faction. Certain zones and cities in the world are also friendly to one faction while hostile to the other. Additionally, certain quests can only be completed by members of one faction and not the other” – www.worldofwarcraft.com

It’s almost like a virtual apartheid.

Making a living in WoW
Players can take on primary and secondary professions in WoW when not adventuring and completing quests. These professions fall into three categories, namely gathering, production, and service. Players can contribute to the World’s thriving economy, or just keep themselves occupied with jobs that range from jewel-crafting and tailoring to cooking and alchemy.

Public transport
The WoW universe is vast – literally continental in size. The game features an advanced flying transportation network and players can make use of public transport to get around. NPCs can buy tickets to ride flying mounts such as mythical Gryphons and Dragon hawks. The flight paths are specifically designed to delight passengers with entertaining sights and glimpses of new regions and unexplored territory.

Heroes of World of Warcraft

Players can choose between ten races belonging to the Alliance or the Horde

WoW economy
There is even a virtual banking system that exists in WoW. Players are able to deposit items into banks and each character has access to personal bank storage with the option to purchase additional storage space using in-game gold.

Auction houses are available for players to buy and sell items to others in a similar way to online auction websites such as eBay. There is even a postal system whereby mailboxes can be used to collect items won at auctions or used to send messages, items and even in-game money to other players.

Advertising in WoW
As with other MMORPGs, companies have emerged offering to sell virtual gold and associated services. However, due to spam advertising abuse, several companies have since been banned from using any WoW chat or communication to advertise any business or sell any services relating to WoW. The game has also been known to advertise unrelated products, such as Toyota trucks.

Corrupted blood plague incident
As part of a cruel social experiment, a ‘deadly’ disease known as the “corrupted blood plague” was unleashed into WoW in 2005, which quickly spread between interacting players. The plague so closely resembled the outbreak of real-world epidemics that scientists are currently looking at ways that online games such as WoW can model human behavior during outbreaks by allowing researchers to more accurately predict how diseases spread amongst a population.

Gaming Addiction
WoW is known to be frighteningly addictive. In 2009 an article titled “10 Most Bizarre Gaming Incidents” reported the case of a young Chinese girl who died of exhaustion after playing the game for several days straight. An online funeral followed. Relationships have ended and online feuds have broken out as a result of the game, so a non-addictive personality is certainly recommended if you wish to venture forth into the world of Azeroth...

Interesting WoW facts

  • Development of WoW took roughly 4-5 years including extensive testing
  • Players have the option of selling their user accounts once their character is well equipped and experienced. The highest recorded WoW account trade was for £5000 (roughly R55 000).
  • The game reflects real world events such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Different locations also have variable weather, such as rain, snow, dust storms and many more.
  • When a character dies it becomes a ghost at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other NPCs that have the ability, or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died.
  • The Chinese government imposed a modification on Chinese versions of the game which transforms dead character corpses into tidy graves and places flesh on bare-boned skeletons.
  • Quests reward the player with experience points, items, and/or in-game money. It is also through quests that much of the game's story is told.
  • WoW players are invited to participate in the virtual community in creative ways. Activities include creating fan artwork and comic strip style storytelling.

World of Warcraft requires the player to pay for a subscription, either by buying game cards for a pre-selected amount of playing time, or by using a credit or debit card to pay on a regular basis.

Related post: DotA - A nOOb's guide

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DOTA GUIDES: How not to die if you're a noob

DotA is probably one of the most addictive online games around and has brought with it a whole new lingo and even has it’s own music video.

If you are new to the game (i.e. a ‘n00b’) it is useful to know a few things if you wish to last more than 5 minutes in the game. I’ve compiled the following hints, tips and useful information (regarding experience, items, game modes, dotA lingo, and maps) with the help of some dotA diehards.

Download the latest dotA map here

Awe ye!

DotA - the most addictive game in ever!

EXPERIENCE IN DOTA:

Besides making your virtual fortune (gold) by killing creeps the main objective is to kill. However, to be an effective killing-machine, experience is crucial.

You gain experience by being near (within a 1000 radius) to an enemy unit (i.e. enemy heroes, enemy creeps and neutral creeps) when they die. Standing by, or just behind your ranged creeps when they attack is about right. If there are two or more players in a lane, you share the experience.

The map is divided into three main lanes - top, middle (mid) and bottom (bot). Note that if a comrade types something like "top solo" it means that they want to be in that lane alone. The benefit of this is that the player gains experience and levels up quicker, yet there is a greater chance of dying without support. In other words, do not solo if you’re a noob!

DOTA ITEMS:

To improve your gameplay you need to know what items suit the different heroes. You also have to look at what heroes you're playing against if you want to try and counter them.

Like anything else, nothing comes for free. Items cost gold. Killing (or “farming”) creeps gets you gold, but you get more for destroying buildings and pawning the enemies head for a quick buck.

A general guide for you to work with is that you must get items that will compliment your hero's abilities. For example, if your hero has a high agility you should focus on getting agility items (such as the Butterfly or a Lothar’s edge, (or at a simpler level , the boots of speed or elven skin boots). These will greatly increase your movement and attack speed.

Items that increase your hero's attack speed are generally good to go for (something like the gloves of haste at the simplest level). Items that compliment these are ones like a buriza (which has a % chance to critical strike). These are best for heroes with very fast attack speeds (generally agility), because they’ll have a greater chance of getting in more crits.

You may often see the pros wielding items such as Battle Furys and vladimir's. However, these are designed for melee heroes, so don't get them for a ranged hero. If you’re a noob I would recommend that you choose a ranged hero as this will allow you to fight from a distance and escape death faster.

At first, try and focus on items from the level 1 shop (the little peasant at the base). It’s also probably a good idea to focus on items that provide you with a few extra hp (hit points) to ensure that you live a little longer. However, don’t be fooled by items such as the heart (that pink item); rather get a couple of bracers. These are cheap and effective (available at a level one shop by combining a gauntlet of strength with a mantel of intelligence).

The essential item that you should carry with you at all times is the town portal spell. Pros know the best order in which to cast their spells and will annihilate you in a second if you get to close. If you are alone, far from your base, and you can’t see any of the enemy heroes on the mini-map, then run/fly/creep home or use a town portal because they’re probably coming for you.

LEARNING THE DOTA LINGO:

You’ll often see people type 'mia' during a game. This is an army term which stands for "missing in action". It means you don't know where the enemy hero is, so basically you are warning your teamies to be careful ("care").

If you are in a lane against someone and they move away so you cant see them on the minimap, tell your team "bot mia" (or whichever lane you're in), because the enemy hero might try to gank (surprise attack) one of your teammates, and they will be bleak with you if you didn't warn them.

Pros love to say 'imba' a lot, which stands for "imbalanced". This means that someone or their team is extremely good and therefore the contest is unfair or imbalanced. E.g. people type "im imba" instead of e.g. "I’m f'ing invincible".

'b' stands for "back", it means "get the hell back or else they are gonna pawn yo ass!"

Other acronyms include:

  • gl (good luck)
  • hf (have fun)
  • gg (good game)
  • wp (well played)
  • wd (well done)
  • np (no problem)
  • ty (thank you)
  • ffs (for F***'s sake)
  • omg (oh my God)
  • nvm (nevermind)

If you type "-di" you will be shown your creep stats in the top right corner of the screen (how many kills and denies you have). If one of your own creeps or towers are very low on health, you can actually kill (deny) them to prevent the enemy heroes from killing them and getting gold. They will be the ones who get the experience though.

DOTA GAME MODES:

If you are hosting a game (which you probably shouldn't do unless you have a 512kbps ADSL line or faster) as soon as the game starts you have to set the mode by typing one of the following commands:

  1. -ap (allpick): you can pick a hero from any of the buildings (even from the buildings on the opposing team).
  2. -ar (all random): you are given a random hero.
  3. -sd (single draft): you are given three random heroes to choose from (one with high agility, one with high strength, or one with a high intelligence).

These are the 3 main modes, which are useful to know before diving in and joining a game. You'll also often see a number next to a game, e.g: [3]apem. This indicates the level of the game. No one lower than lvl3 (in this case) can join the game.

Other modes can be used in conjunction with the above modes:
-em (easy mode): you get more gold and buildings are weaker. This is usually typed in conjunction with another mode eg. –apem (allpick, easy mode).

Try to avoid em games though as they will make you a worse player. However, they are usually shorter than normal games so if you have limited time to play they’re rather useful.

There are other, less common modes which are explained in the 'map info' menu when you are in a game. One’s you might see are:

  • -sp (shuffle players): shuffles the sentinel and scourge teams before the game starts
    -dm (death match): when you die you are given a different hero
    -mm (mirror mode)
    -sc (super creeps)
    -wtf (what the fuck): spells do not have cooldowns and do not cost any mana. (These are rather hectic and best left to the pros)

You can even string a whole lot of modes together e.g. –aremdm (all random, easy-mode, deathmatch).

How cool do you think you are?

To find out what your character’s level is and how much experience you have, type the following commands when you're in any channel:
/level (tells you what your current level is)
/exp (tells you how much experience you have and how much you need to level up. Usually about 5 min after finishing a game it tells you that you have gained exp from it)
/pm shows you how many times you or any other players have been punished
/p reveals your ping and that of other players. Players with a ping of more than 200 or so are likely to cause the game to lag.
Type /help for a list of other commands

It is useful to type /level before a game starts which will provide you with the levels of all the players you're about to go up against. (Just because a game says "for noobs" this is often not the case but rather a trap to lure you in). If the levels of the other players far exceed your own join another game).

DOTA MAPS:

You can get started by downloading the latest dotA map from www.getdota.com. New maps are released quite often so keep checking the site for updates. You'll be kicked from games if you don't have the latest map.

New maps usually have bug fixes and balances (i.e. if it is felt that a specific hero is too good he/she/it will be made slightly weaker or vice versa). Sometimes new heroes are added as well.

NB: if you see a ping count (ie. an increasing number next to your username) when you join a game then you do not have the latest map. Go download it (takes 5 mins) else, if you aren't kicked, you will slow the entire game down.

Every now and then someone will write AI for one of the dotA maps (where you can play against bots for practice), but it doesn't happen too often so best to play custom games in War3 by selecting the dota map. You can also modify these in the war3editor.

DOTA FINAL TIPS & TRICKS:

When you hit Enter to chat only your allies are able to read your message. To quickly chat to "All" hold down shift when you press Enter.

When your towers are under attack they are automatically pinged (that red circle that makes a noise is a ping). To do a ping yourself hold down Alt and click anywhere on the map. It's a quick way of communicating with your team mates, but don't go overboard and become ping happy.

One last word of advice: try not to die. The less you die the more you own! Good luck, have fun, pawn passionately! :D

If anyone has anything to contribute to this beginners' guide please add it as a comment below.

Related post: The World of Warcraft

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