Posting questions and getting help

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Dec 9, 2003
Halifax, NS
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I post this in hopes that it will help newbies both to aquaria and to forums to get better and faster help. This post is part rant/part intruction manual.

Asking questions

First, the title:
Try to make your title as descriptive as possible. It's your first point of contact with those who will read and hopefully help you out, so it should be clear what you're seeking. A vague title might not necessarily drive off someone who knows the answer, but a good, clear title will let someone know right away what you're looking for. There are 20 or so threads on each page, not everyone will read through all of them, nor do they necessarily have time, so be clear about what you need and someone who knows something about it will have a look.

For example, let's say your pH is crashing and your water is cloudy because it's a new tank and you just threw in a load of fish.
Good title: Help! pH crashing, cloudy water.
Bad title: Help! Bad water!

Second, Post structure and content:
It's tough to know what to include and what to leave out. But use paragraphs effectively to make your posts easier to read.

Include any parameters that seem relevant, or all if you don't know what's relevant, in the initial post. These could include: tank volume, number and types of occupants, feeding regimen any water tests you've done and if they differ from normal test results, say how. It can also be useful to say whether the tank is planted and if/what you fertillize. You can't post too many details, and as long as you separate them into paragraphs then the reader can easily skip the unimportant ones.

Use specific numbers, be precise. Vague words and generalizations such as "fine", "happy", "okay" will not get you the help you seek. You test so that you know what's happening in the tank, how can we help if we don't have the same information?

Third, Grammar and Spelling:
The odd typo is bound to happen, and there are certainly children on these forums who have yet to learn the the intricacies of writing (I'm still learning). However, put the effort into making your post as clear and well written as you can. If your post is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, it will be difficult to read and your question may not be evident. Furthermore, speaking personally, responders are often less likely to spend the time writing a well thought out and put together response if you didn't do the same for them in the writing of your post.

Another thing to keep in mind, this is a forum, not a chat room. That means that full sentences and full words will give you the best results. The most knowledgeable folks are not necessarily ones that spend time in chat rooms. If I don't understand (or have to work to understand) your post, I'm not going to answer, or my answer will not be the one you're seeking (see above paragraph).

If you didn't get the answer that you were looking for, 99% of the time it's your fault for not asking the right question. Remember that and don't be shy of trying again, asking the right question is not as simple as it sounds. Most of the more experienced forum folks know that (intuitively if not explicitly) and are very patient in that regard.

Fourth, Jargon:
Much like everything else, the aquarium hobby has its own jargon to learn. If you want to understand computers, you learn terms like RAM, CPU, processing speed, etc. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with your mechanic, you'd better know what a spark plug and CV boot are. The same goes for aquaria, so don't get all bent out of shape when someone uses a term like "ammonia titer", UGF, or "gph". Feel free to ask an explanation of the term, but don't flame the person for not "answering in english".

It's your responsibility to learn the language if you want to get answers. Most folks here are more than happy to explain the terms to you if you ask politely, but you'll pretty much get the same as I just typed - in a more curt manner - if you fly off the cuff at a poster.

Answering questions
Much of the same here minus the title. Spelling, grammar, and paragraph structure are all key to writing a good response.

The only thing that I'd add is that if you don't know the answer, don't post an answer. If you think that you know something, but you're not certain, state as much. If I answer a question, but am uncertain of my answer, I say so, I am trying to be helpful by offering guidance, but I won't mislead the knowledge seeker into thinking that I am an expert in the field. In this manner my uncertain post is not given the same weight as a post by someone who does know the answer. Similarly, it assures that when I do know something for certain a history of wrong posts will not besmirch my reputation. Of course, only post an uncertain answer if a better one hasn't already been posted.

In the end, it all comes down to time. Most people don't spend their whole day on the forum. Some of us only pop in when avoiding proofreading our Thesis. In other words, make the most of your post by making it polite, readable, and clear and you will get the answer that you seek.
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No freelancing!
Aug 14, 2001
Real Name
Nope, won't delete it Harlock. That one's going to follow you forever. :D

I would add a few additional bits of guidance.

1. Realize that this is a fish board. We're here to help, or to get help, or hang out with people who 'get' our passion about glass boxes of water. "Joke" threads about cramming Nessie into your 5 gallon tank are not likely to be well received, although as a rule this board as a wonderful sense of humor on just about every other topic.

2. Non-native English speakers are welcome to identify themselves. Learning English as a first language is tough, those tackling it as a 2nd language deserve all my respect.

3. Though I list this last, it really ranks higher. If you DO NOT want to hear that you've made a mistake, don't ask for our opinion. Yep, there are tons of ways to have success in this hobby, but there are also tons of ways that just don't work.


Aug 29, 2005
Cincinnati, OH

Some Commonly Used AC Jargon

LFS- local fish store

Mod- moderator; the folks who keep this place running (on the forums list, the mods who run the forum are posted after the forum name)

Water Parameters- things like pH, ammnoia, nitrate, etc.

IMHO- in my humble opinion

there are others, but that's all i can think of for now
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No freelancing!
Aug 14, 2001
Real Name
Just an important addition....

Make sure you are posting your thread in an appropriate forum. If you are not new to the hobby, you don't have to post in the Newbies. If you're working with brackish fish, post in the brackish forum.

Posting to an existing thread that has NOTHING to do with your questions is a bad idea, as you won't get many responses.

Posting any type of question thread in the Articles Forum will get it deleted. Posting a question within an existing article--if it's for clarification--is fine. Posting 'why isn't my tank cycled?' in the cycling thread, however, is not useful.


AC Members
Jul 25, 2005
PLEASE!, to newbies of this forum, search atleast the stickys and article section for answers to your questions, and prefrably atleast 2-3 pages of the forum, then ask any questions you may have left.

Also, please don't overlook any links posted, they are there to answer your questions.


AC Members
Sep 20, 2006
Post pics

How does a fella post a pic on here?
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AC Members
Jun 5, 2006
When making a post scroll down a little ways. You will see a button that says "Manage Attachments", click on this and a new window will open. Then just browse for the image and click the upload button. Then simply save the message.


Apr 26, 2008
Millport, Scotland
can some-one tell me if I`m using the forum correctly please.
When I post a question and get a reply how do I thank the person. Do I look at the reply then click on the Post Quick Reply of that person who sent it to thank them or ask them another question.
An embaressed newbie!!!


Staff member
Dec 30, 2005
Real Name
Mr. Normal
Yep, that's all it takes. You can use the Quick Reply or the Post Reply.

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