Swimming Pools – 6 Feng Shui Tips to Make Them Auspicious

Swimming pools are a wonderful addition to any home. They create an instant place for fun, relaxation, and exercise. Plus, water is extremely beneficial in any landscape. However, in feng shui, swimming pools can often create negative influence. That's because swimming pools possess a great deal of energy. It is also because swimming pools are often located at the rear of the home, and that is extremely inauspicious according to feng shui.

Even so, there are some instances when pools are a benefit to the homeowner. This would include a pool that is correctly sized, shaped, and positioned. Certain pool shapes and sizes can create problems, such as poison arrows, which are severe points of energy directed at the house.

On the plus side, pools positioned in certain locations can actually benefit homeowners. These are pools that are placed according to flying star. At their best, pools can be positioned to tap the "wealth star" – the secret location of prosperity that is tied to the direction of the front door. Another benefit of flying star placement is to overcome negative energies, as pools can offset negative energy from poor star placements.

Look at placing your pool in an auspicious location and follow feng shui's design criteria to make sure your pool benefits you! Positioned right, swimming pools can add tremendous wealth luck to a home! If not, though, it can be a very negative influence that can harm your wealth. To be sure about your pool, though, consider checking in with a feng shui consultant.

The Top 6 Feng Shui Pool Rules

1. Select a shape that is auspicious.

The best shapes for pools are round, oval, kidney, or curving. This is because none of these shapes have any hard edges or points that can create a poison arrow effect that square-shaped pools often do. Other good choices include octagons and figure-eights.

2. Keep your pool size proportional to the size of the home.

Pools are better if they are not overly large. If they are too large for the home, they can "overwhelm" it, leaving much negative energy. Better to go with a smaller pool than one that is too large.

3. Place pools at the sides of the yard.

If possible, it is better to position swimming pools at the side of a yard rather than directly in the rear. If that can not be accommodated, then do try to avoid having a pool that is directly in line with the rear center of the house. Pools that do can become menacing, as water behind you is considered bad feng shui.

4. Pools that embrace a home bring good luck.

These pools appear to wrap around a home or curve toward the home. These are a good design choice as they do not have hard edges pointing at the house.

5. Locate pools in a favorable sector for periods 8 and 9.

Until 2043, pools should ideally be located in the North, Southwest, East, or Southeast sectors.

6. Incorporate the five elements around your pool.

Pools should be mixed with the other elements, such as metal (handrailings, pumps, electrical equipment), wood (plants, arbors, gazebos), earth (rock, cement surroundings or deckings), and fire (lighting). This helps to ensure that the pool is well-balanced and harmoniously incorporated into the landscape.

Vertical Jump Test

An athlete's vertical jump is a stone in his sports career; in sports like basketball and volleyball, the player with the highest jump is the most scared score winner and defender of all. For Generations, people have been trying to figure out ways of enhancing the explosive power of a person's vertical jump. Aside from the great bout on unlocking the limits, it has also been a problem measuring the accurate progress of a person's vertical jump during his training.

Wall Nut
The most basic way of measuring the height of a person's vertical leap is by standing within a wall while raising one of your hands as high as possible, feet lying flat on the ground; afterwards, put a line or marker on the tip of your finger . This is known as the "standing reach". Put oil or powder at the tip of your fingers then jump several times and touch the wall so marks would be left behind to indicate your highest reach upon jumping. Measure the distance between your standing reach and the highest point you have made. This is the height of your vertical jump.

Kinematics
Some people use a more scientific and accurate way of measuring the vertical jump, by using a pressure pad, laser beams and kinematic equations. This is measured by taking note of the time an athlete can complete a jump before he falls back to the ground. The equation for this is h = g * t2 / 8, where (h) is for height, (g) is for the pull of gravity which is equal to 9.81 m / s2 or 32.2 ft / s2 and (t2 / 8) for the time an athlete can complete the jump from the ground and back to the ground in milliseconds. This equation if usually calculated by a software installed to a computer where the pressure pad and laser beams are connected.

Infrared Laser
This is also an accurate way of measuring the vertical leap of a player, where it is required to stand and jump in between two infrared laser planes facing each other. How does it work? Well, not as complicated as computing kinematic equations; in fact, it just works like jumping next a wall and subtracting your standing reach off your maximum jump reach. The only difference is that first, it is using infrared laser beams and second, it is a way lot more expensive than the regular jump and reach beside the wall.

Whatever method it is you are using, as long as you are sure that your vertical is gaining more and more power and you can feel that there really is progress in what you are doing, you are certainly getting somewhere. Question is, are you? If you are not pretty sure that there is ascension in your vertical jump training, I would advise you to seek help from vertical jump professionals.

Keyless Door Locks – The Advantages and Disadvantages of These Type of Door Locks

Keyless door locks are becoming more and more popular. No longer will you have to hunt for your key or fumble with a key in the middle of the night. As with all products, there are advantages and disadvantages of these kind of locks.

Keyless Door Locks: Advantages

You used to always have to worry about locking your keys in the house. With keyless door locks you do not have to worry about that anymore. And you do not have to worry about losing your key. You just enter your key code and your door unlocks. One of the best advantages is that you can let a repair man enter your home when you are not there. They enter your home, do what they need to do and leave. You get to change the code and they can not copy a key when you do not have one.

Keyless Door Locks: Disadvantages

There are two main disadvantages of these type of locks. One: someone could guess your key code and get into your house. If you choose completely random numbers then this should not happen. Do not choose your birthday or cell phone number. Two: If the power goes out, and your lock is purely run on electricity, you could have locked out of your house. But, if its run on a battery than you should be ok.

Keyless Door Locks: Remote Entry

There are remote entry locks. They have the disadvantages of losing it or forgetting it in the house. They can not be copied like keys can be. If you lose the remote it will cost quite a bit to replace, seeing as they are quite expensive.

How to Raise the Prices You Charge to Your Cleaning Customers

You started your cleaning business to make a profit and earn a living. Most cleaning businesses, whether they do residential or commercial cleaning, start out with the owner doing everything – marketing, cleaning, buying supplies, and even the bookwork. As your company grows and you hire employees and add more clients, your expenses grow too. When you started out you may have under-priced your services either to get new clients or because you lacked bidding experience. So now that your expenses are growing and you’ve discovered you under-priced your services, what do you do?

First off, understand that raising prices is necessary in any business. Just take a look at things you buy on a routine basis – gas, milk, cleaning supplies, electricity – prices do increase and sometimes take a big jump!

Before you raise your prices to your cleaning customers go back and take a look at your original contract. Does your contact state the original bid price will be good for a certain length of time? If it does you will not be able to raise your price until that time frame has expired. If not, how long have you been cleaning for that client? Even if you originally under-priced your services you may not want to increase your price if you have only been cleaning for the client for a short time. Most cleaning companies wait at least a year before increasing prices. If you don’t have anything written in your cleaning contract about price increases, you should start adding a clause about it with your next client. Many companies guarantee their price for a year and state that they take cost of living increases each year (for example, 4%). Or they may state something like, “we reserve the right to increase prices after one year”.

Before figuring out a new price go back through your original bid and make sure that you have everything covered so you are making a profit. If your supply costs have gone up dramatically or if you have added expenses (workers comp or more insurance because of hiring employees), make sure the price increase will cover the extra expenses.

Another factor to consider before raising prices is your customer’s current satisfaction level. Are they happy with the job your cleaning company is doing? Most people understand price increases and will stick with your cleaning company as long as they are happy with the job you are doing. After all, looking for a new cleaning company takes time and your customer may not get a better price or the quality of work they want from someone new.

But don’t be afraid to raise the price on a customer who is constant complainer, especially if their complaints are not justified. You may need to raise your price to cover the extra time you spend in their office (or home).

Once you have all your facts and the new price you need to charge, send a letter to your customer. Let them know that you are raising your prices, why you are raising your prices, and the benefits to them to continue using your cleaning company. Make sure you inform your customer at least 30 days in advance that the price will be going up. Keep in mind that large corporations and government agencies may need more time if they have to run the price increase through a committee or get approval by a board.

The phrase “you get what you pay for” is often true when it comes to cleaning companies. Too low of a price may mean the company is not doing satisfactory work or that the company has undervalued its services and will soon be out of business.

Pricing your services so you make a profit is not a bad thing! Your cleaning company’s survival depends on charging your customers appropriately so you can stay in business and make a profit. Good customers will understand a price increase and be happy to continue using your services. And don’t be surprised if a customer that leaves because of a price increase soon comes back! Many people eventually realize that a lower priced bid from another cleaning company means their building (or home) is not as clean as when your company provided their cleaning services.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Janitorial Store

Laminated Flooring – Easy to Install Stylish Home Floors

Laminated flooring is a popular option that many home owners use to spruce up the appearance of their house. It offers several benefits to those who choose to install it with minimal drawbacks. If you are considering home flooring renovations, here are a few things to think about when it comes to your floors.

Affordability

While hardwood flooring is still incredibly popular, laminate floor coverings give the same look as hardwood, without the price. Wood floors are the most expensive on the market so many people can not afford them, but laminate can be purchased and installed for a fraction of the cost. On top of being cost effective, the installation process is simple as well. Many people have found that installing laminate flooring is simple enough for them to do it themselves, but if you have any doubts, professionals can be hired to do the job for you.

When purchasing your laminate, take the time to check on warranties. Some manufacturers offer a 5 or even a 10 year warranty for replacement which can be a real money saver if something unexpected happens to your home.

Variety

Laminated flooring is also available in a wide variety of colors, styles and installation types. Laminate can be purchased that looks like wood, stone or tile which allows you to get the look of any type of flooring without the hefty price of real wood or the hassle of laying individual tiles or cleaning grout. Wood laminate styles can be found in a variety of colors from oak to cherry, while tile and stone styles can be found in almost any imaginable color.

There are also several different types of installation methods available including floating laminate installation. This method will allow you to reserve your original flooring without damaging it with nails, glue or staples because the laminate planks connect to each other instead of to the floor benefit them.

Drawbacks

While there are several benefits to laminated flooring there are also a few drawbacks to consider before committing to laminate. One concern is that some laminates may contain chemicals that can be released into the air in your home over time and cause illness like formaldehyde.

Another thing to consider is that laminate can be easily damaged or stained so it requires a decent amount of attention and cleaning. Areas that get a lot of traffic should be cleaned often to avoid scrapes from dirt and dust. Spills should be cleaned immediately to avoid stains and may require steam cleaning for full removal. Most people with pets or children often choose to cover their laminate floor coverings with area rugs to help avoid damage.

Although laminate floors do have some drawbacks, they certainly offer many benefits that make them worth while. If you have ever wanted to redo your flooring, but decided against it because of the cost or long and drawn out installation processes, then laminate may be the answer to your prayers. Whether you want your floors to look like wood, stone or tile, there are plenty of affordable laminated flooring options available.

Benefits of Wearing A Wonderbra

Who does not know the Wonderbra? Every woman knows the benefits of wearing a Wonderbra, even men do. This is the most famous brand that has created a trend among the less-endowed women. After its sensational launch in the United Kingdom, the Wonderbra made its way to the United States and debuted in 1994. If we look into statistics, one was sold in the United States every 15 seconds during the peak of the Wonderbra.

The Wonderbra became popular because of how it was created to give every woman its maximum benefits. Each cup of the Wonderbra has three components. The back and under-wire were angled for maximum support and breast enhancement. Cookies or removable pads are included which helps boost the breasts. The gate back and rigid straps provide support and enhance the cleavage. With these components, the Wonderbra lifts the breasts up and closer together, thereby, creating a look of larger breasts and a dramatic, sexy cleavage.

There are many remarkable benefits of wearing a Wonderbra. Listed below are some of the major benefits that you can get with this product:

  • No side effects
  • No surgery needed
  • No breast implants means no risk complications
  • No drugs, no medical or chemical compounds
  • No exercise or lifestyle adjustment required
  • No equipment needed
  • No large expenses since it is relatively affordable

In order to get the maximum benefits of wearing a Wonderbra, you must get your right bra size. Remember that wearing a wrong bra size gives you discomfort. Buying a wrong size of bra is a common mistake women make. It is evident that women bodies come in different body shapes and sizes so you have to find and wear one that best fits you. In order to get the best bra size, you just need to take two measurements. First, take a tape measure and hold it 1 inch below your bust line. Next is to measure around and over your breasts, commencing with a point 1 inch below your shoulder blades.

After learning the benefits of wearing a Wonderbra, you are now ready to choose the best style and fit for you. It comes in different styles and colors. There are push-up bras, special occasion bras, seamless and strapless bras to name a few. You have the freedom to choose your very own a Wonderbra. They are available both in stores and online.

So if you truly agree with the look of natural lift this Wonderbra can give you and if you truly accept that the increase in breast size is in appearance only, then a Wonderbra is meant for you. Also, if you are more interested in a larger breast appearance than increasing the size of your breasts through surgical procedures then there is no stopping you to avail of the Wonderbra.

The benefits of wearing Wonderbra are truly unmatched as this product works remarkable wonders in its natural form. With a Wonderbra, a fuller and seductively shaped breast is created. You do not only look great but you will feel even more attractive.

Why Reflexology Is Becoming More and More Popular

Put simply, reflexology is the application of gentle and controlled pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, or ears. Reflexologists work on the notion that these areas and reflex points correspond to different body organs and systems. They believe that applying pressure to these points has a positive effect on their patients’ organs and general health.

For example, reflexologists believe that a specific spot in the arch of the foot corresponds to the bladder point. When a reflexology practitioner uses their thumbs or fingers to apply pressure to this area, bladder functioning may be improved.

Although reflexology is not used to diagnose or offer a cure to health problems, millions of people around the world use it to help with their symptoms or to complement other treatments when addressing conditions such as anxiety, back pain and headaches.

Reflexology offers enormous and varied benefits. Helping with the symptoms of stress and aiding pain management are two of the most common reasons why people seek out reflexology therapy.

Reflexology to Reduce Stress

Reflexology techniques involve finger or thumb “walking”. In other words, reflexologists “walk” their fingers or thumbs across different areas of the feet in a set sequence. They also massage and knead the patient’s foot using their whole hand. The experience is typically firm, but gentle, and does not cause any discomfort or pain. Results vary from patient to patient, but the soothing action of reflexology generally induces a deeply relaxed and peaceful feeling.

Reflexology to Reduce Pain

Reflexologists work on the understanding that illness is caused by blockages in the meridians or energy channels. These blockages slow the flow of life enhancing energy, also known as ‘chi,’ causing a build up of negative energy, which results in pain or disease.

There are over 7,000 nerve endings in the feet. These are connected to the entire body through the central nervous system. Reflexologists work on the belief that massage of the feet (therefore massage of the nerve endings) encourages the body’s self-healing abilities.

Reflexologists believe that their techniques have the ability to restore the delicate balance between the different body systems and functions, thus restoring harmony within the body. As a result of this, tension is removed from the body, stress is reduced and pain is diminished.

Reflexology treatment is becoming more widely used and increasing in popularity due to the deep relaxation effects it typically has on the body.

Wood Fired Pizza Oven For Your Backyard Living Space

Everyone wants something unique and unusual in their back yard. In the desert landscaping scenario its a bit easier to get that kind of thing since the back yard is in use all year around. When it comes to something different for your back yard outdoor kitchen and barbecue centers another innovative product that a great landscaper can offer you is a wood fired pizza oven.

Whats more fun than Pizza and the parties that it can engender? The answer to that has to be a pizza oven, outdoor, wood fired and providing the best of the pizza that the world has to offer.

Typically the Italians offer wood fired ovens to create the best of the gourmet pizza that can be found in the United States and around the world.

One of the items that is quite often found as an addition to desert landscaping is the outdoor wood burning pizza ovens. These are not just for business or for Italian restaurants, they are also for the discerning or the fun loving home owner. Your outdoor kitchen or barbecue area will benefit from the addition of a wood burning pizza oven on your property.

A good landscaping company can offer you an amazing and attractive new element to your next back yard party – a pizza oven that will be the hit of your neighborhood. Wood burning pizza ovens are of course the state of the art, but there are also some easier solutions such as gas pizza ovens as well as much more.

One of the first things you're going to need to determine when it comes to ordering your outdoor wood burning pizza oven will be to figure out precisely what you need. Some of the smaller or more standard size of ovens will be about three feet wide. The measurement is the dimension of the interior. This permits it to heat up very quickly in under an hours time. An oven of this size is capable of cooking between two and ten pizzas at one time and doing them to absolute perfection.

In addition to the wood fired ovens you might also elect one of the authentic brick outdoor ovens for your backyard. Forno Bravo Pizza ovens are among the best in the world and are one that you might consider as something that could easily be fitted out in your desert landscaping project.

For your next barbecue or party, offer something unique and intriguing in your back yard. Make it a cut above the rest for what you can offer to your guests. Get your wood fired pizza oven installed and find out why the Italian chefs will not do it any other way.

Understand the Causes of Termites to Prevent Termite Attacks

Termites are a bigger worry for homeowners than even fire or food. That alone should be sufficient for anyone to understand the capacity of these termites to wreck havoc in any house. They can destroy the wood in the house completely unless they are stopped at the right time. The best time to fight the termites is even before they attack your house.

Surprisingly most of the termite attack is caused by the actions of the home owners themselves. That is why it is important to understand things that encourage termites to attack your house, so that you can avoid them completely.

The most common reason for termite attack is the plants kept near the sides of house especially ones that have grown out of control. That is why you should always try to keep the plants away from the sides of the house. If you or your neighbor must keep plants, take care to ensure that no part of the plants including the root is touching your house.

The second most common reason of termite infestation is the use of wood, the choicest food of termites, to build shed or deck in the backyard. If you still decide to go ahead with the plan, then at least make use of wood that is less attractive to the termites. Cedar and juniper are few wood types that are less loved by the termites. Please try to for such wood items even though they tend to be a little more expensive than other wood items.

All the above reasons of termite attack had to do with availability of wood as a bait for the termites to attack your house. Moisture is another item that is equally attractive for the termites. Look out for any source of moisture near your home and try to solve the issue. If it is the rain water falling down from the roof then put gutters on the roof to catch the water and then divert it to a spot away from the side of your home. Leaking pipe lines is another cause of moisture around the home. Look for any such source of water in your yard and get them repaired as soon as you can.

I find it really stupid to expose your home to the attack of termites by ignoring such small details. Try to follow all the above advices to reduce the risk of termite attack on your home and furniture.

Astral Projection Spy – The Amazing Truth Revealed

One of the most interesting components of the research done into the out body body experience was the US military study into using astral projection as a spying technique on foreign countries and other miscellaneous enemies. As far fetched as it sounds, the CIA conducted an experiment in remote viewing, or "seeing at a distance" that employed a series of highly regarded psychic spies, as well as ordinary military intelligence as a way to peek both at the possibilities of using ESP in warfare, as well as of course, seeing what the other guys were REALLY doing over "there" …

After about a decade or so, the "official" lab was closed, and it's results were released to congressional oversight and review. The operation was called "Star-gate" and any simple search engine query will offer eons of reading on the incredible results turned in by some of the highly trained psychic spies employed to peek behind enemy lines … while they're bodies were many thousands of miles away!

The most famous of these paranormal guinea pigs is Indigo Swann, whose accuracy in remote viewing is unexplainable by any current known scientific standard or process. His ability to see, via powers we do not yet understand, people, places and things in geographical locales many miles, and even countries away, is simply jaw dropping. Several other participants of project Star-gate have gone on to very celebrated careers as authors and speakers on Astral Projection, psychic ability and one or two actively teach the skill to others in workshops around the world. A bestselling book also emanated from the same group, "Psychic Spies", which highlights the experiences of one of the remote viewers during these experiments – his claim of developing psychic powers after being shot in the head during the Vietnam war was bolstered after considering after showing off these skills for an incredulous military audience.

Overall, like much in this venue, it's simply amazing, phenomenal and exciting stuff that would make any hardcore "X-files" devote green with envy .. 🙂

Georgian and Victorian Grand Entrance Doors

For homebuilders planning a Georgian or Victorian style home, one of the most important element decisions will be choosing a grand entrance door, the distinct signature of a home's character. Whereas windows are considered the eyes of a home, the grand entrance door is the open, welcoming embrace, the gateway to the warmth within. Of course, the entrance door also must serve to be a barrier of a kind, to both unfriendly visitors and unkind weather, and the need for strength and security is just as important as a stylish appearance. Before choosing a period door, consulting with a bespoke joinery that specializes in period reproduction style doors would be a wise decision. Both Georgian and Victorian style doors are meant to give a grand first impression, and they are designed to enhance the overall appearance of an entry.

Georgian architecture is a broad term defining all styles created during the reign of the first three King Georges of England between 1750 and 1820. The three most important elements of the period of design and construction style were proportion, symmetry, and elegance. The elegance leaned toward simplicity, however, and ornamentation was muted. More emphasis was placed upon solidarity, and Georgian dwellings tended to be so sound constructed that many remained standing in their near-original state centuries later. In keeping with a balanced façade, great attention was given to the doors and windows. The grand entrance door was especially important as the principal feature of a Georgian home.

Doors were usually set back at least four inches from the brick, stone or timber front. They were very sturdy, thick-timbered doors, but usually simple in design with four or six panels, and they often had a semi-circular or semi-elliptical fanlight above the door, which is a window with glazing bars that radiate out like a fan. Later Georgian doors became more ornate, with more intricate transom windows and sidelights adorned with tracery. Fine examples of Georgian style grand entrance doors with beautiful fanlights and sidelights can be found in London on Portland Place, in particular on the west side, numbers 27 to 47, south of Devonshire Street.

Victorian style architecture broadly encompasses any building or style created during her reign from 1837 to 1901, and much is constructed in brick, stone, and timber incorporating an eclectic mix of other architectural styles and motifs. The Victorian period designers and craftsmen were quite fond of ornament, patterned details, plenty of trim, and bold colors. The homes most often had bay windows, ornate string courses, decorative gables and keys, interesting brickwork, and elegant grand entrances. Stained glass became popular, especially among the affluent, and soon became a standard inclusion of many Victorian doors. The carved panel work became more stylish, divided into four to six sections, and great attention was given to gleaming brass door furniture. The mortise lock, developed during the Victorian era, replaced the rim lock. Fanlights and glazed upper panels replaced the above-door fanlights, but sidelights remained popular.

Both Georgian and Victorian grand entrance door styles have their own unique features and historical significance. When building a period style house, it is important to research and understand the architectural elements inherent in the period door design to match the home's architecture accordingly. A respectable bespoke joinery can assist homebuilders in choosing the right grand entrance door and in keeping true to history.

Fake Fireplaces

It is the dream of many to make their homes look classic and elegant. Fireplaces are known to add to the look and beauty of any room, while adding to the property value of the house. However, they are usually very expensive and cost a fortune when opting for the real granite or marble fireplace. The fake fireplaces are the best option to meet pre-determined budgets and enhance the beauty of the room.

Fireplaces not only provide warmth and coziness to the room, but also provide a place for displaying ornaments and other decorative accessories on the mantelpiece. It adds to the distinct feature of the room. In order to fulfill the purpose, within a budget, people opt for fake fireplaces.

Several do-it-yourself kits are available in the market to guide the homeowners in designing and building up their own designer fireplaces. While opting for fake fireplaces owners must consider the size, shape and placement of the fireplace, according to the room space and other furniture. Materials for setting up fake fireplaces are also easily available and give the desired finish and look. These include plywood, cardboard, PVA glue, screws, nails, hammers, wallpaper, rags, paintbrushes, paint rollers, quality acrylic primer, pencils and rulers, newspapers, masking tape, plastic plates for mixing paint and colors and sea sponges, to name a few.

All these materials are used to build the fireplace, following the instructions and guidelines. Fake fireplaces can be built during the Christmas week, to celebrate the occasion and enjoy the presence of a fire and the cinders in the fireplace. Various online sites offer guidelines and video demonstrations to build fake fireplaces. Individuals can also take the help of professionals to guide them. These additions to the home are always welcome and enhance the interiors with a touch of class.

The Optimum Cichlid Aquarium Set Up

The groups of fishes commonly referred to as Cichlids, compose a vast group of, generally larger and more aggressive fishes from Africa and South and Central America with a few species being found in Asia. They offer such a large variety of bright colors, shapes and habits that they have become one of the most popular fishes kept by hobbyist's world wide.

This is the diversity of species, breeding habits and feeding that it becomes necessary to set up different groups of Cichlids in different tanks. Some of these include African Cichlids, American Cichlids, Dwarf Cichlids or Discus. It is usually recommended that you keep these like minded fish together and do not mix them in general.

Selecting and Positioning Your Tank

Always try to choose a tank with the largest possible surface area and volume as most cichlids grow quite large. Make sure you always have a glass cover to stop your fish jumping out.

Position your new aquarium so that you avoid direct sunlight hitting the aquarium for too long as this can cause excessive algae problems.

Choosing Gravel, Decor and Setting Up

Cichlids are quite territorial and the more holes, refuges and interesting "zones" you can create make for a much harmonized community.

A good starting point is to place in your tank a background that can offer the realism and natural environment that these fish will feel very relaxed and unstressed in. Check out the cichlid mansion range from Aquarium + Reptile Rocks Inc if you want something extraordinary.

Next is the gravel we advise a fine blended gravel as too coarse a gravel size allows unheaten food and waste to accumulate in the pockets between pebbles away from water flow that break it down. There are several varieties to choose from. Clean your gravel in small quantities in a bucket. Three or four rinses should be sufficient. Place the cleaned gravel into your tank along with a little water.

Next to add some more "zones" you can add cleaned rocks and driftwood and position them. Triangulate your decorations to create a greater depth of field and provide an amphitheater where the fish can congregate in a community setting. Try to slope your gravel slowly towards the rear and sides using rocks and logs to create tiers and depth. The lightweight rocks from A + RR Inc like quartz rocks, north head ridge, barnacle, rock pool and charred wood make this fun and easy to do. When you have the major decorations in place, add a little water, if this is a little dirty from the gravel siphon this dirty water out again into your bucket.

Next fill your tank. Avoid disturbing the gravel by using a plate or newspaper onto which you can direct the water flow. Some coral sand is a good addition to an African tank, while white Rift Lake Sand looks great for Africans also but can show up detritus badly. These aspects will be discussed further later.

Preparing your Tap Water

Next we must treat our tap water to remove harmful chlorine and ammonia. There are several products that will remove both, the best value is Amquel Instant water Detoxifier.

It is also necessary to replace electrolytes like, magnesium, and potassium making in tap water.

The electrolytic aquarium salts are essential to fishes well being. Not only provide an anti-bacterial effect, but help fishes produce body slime to protect themselves from infection and create an essential osmotic barrier so they do not dehydrate. Make sure it is dissolved before adding to your aquarium.

There are also several products we can use to specific water conditions for African and Discus. To calculate water volume: consider 10cm x 10cm x 10cm = 1 liter. So length (cm) x Width (cm) x Height (cm) divided by 1000 = Volume (liters).

Biological Filter Supplementation

The Best way to get crystal clear water is to pro-actively provide bacteria cultures as biological filter supplement. In our opinion WASTE CONTROL and CYCLE used in conjunction with one another or HBH TERMINITE are the best way to enhance your filtration and stay ahead of the game. People using these products simply do not encounter the same problems as people who take a minimalist approach (do not use a filter supplement) and end up constantly reacting to problems. These bacteria cultures help convert all organic wastes to ammonia then further to nitrite and finally to nitrate. To establish your tanks bacteria populations can take several weeks but is accelerated greatly by adding supplements. Do not overstock your new aquarium during this run in period.

Filtration

All good filters provide ample filter media surface areas for the colonization of aerobic (oxygen breathing) denitrifying bacteria which break down fish waste. The greater the volume of the filter and the greater the flow rate, the larger the population of bacteria to keep your tank clean. This is Biological filtration. All good filters should provide some sponge as Mechanical filtration. Chemical filtration is also important. We always use ammonia remover as a safeguard. Carbon is also beneficial but Purigen is superior. It is rechargeable and will also remove log logs from your tank (That is if you did not use the Charred wood from A + RR Inc). Remember to rinse loose particles out before adding to your filter.

Filter Types

Freshwater Trickle filters offer the most filtration for large seriously stocked tanks.

External Canister filers like the PRIME, EHEIM, FLUVAL or VIA AQUA are the best of the commercially available filters. They offer the largest volume of media and can be concealed from view. All these brands have a simple priming system and excellent taps to isolate water in the tub while the filter is cleaned.

Hang On styles like the AQUACLEAR and AQUAONE are also very good. They can probably provide the best value if your budget does not permit an external canister. Simple fill the filter box with water and turn on. Water is pumped through the filter and gravity flows back into your tank.

Internal motorized filters like the CRYSTAL, RIO, and EIHEM are popular for smaller tanks or as a secondary filter for extra circulation in a large tank. Internals usually do not interfere with top glass or hoods. These can be placed under one of your lightweight rocks.

Air Operated filtration is often not sufficient for cichlids. We do highly recommend air bubbling in Cichlid tanks. Be sure to use a Check Valve so that water can not flow back into your pump if power goes off.

If you have a Cichlid Mansions or Amazon background from A + RR Inc you can conceive a lot of the plumbing from view which makes for a very attractive set up.

Water Changing

Although nitrate (residual waste) is reliably harmless, the levels will accumulate and become dangerous if regular partial water changes are not performed to dilute nitrates. Cichlids are large fish that eat a lot, so nitrates accumulate quickly. PH is also dropped dangerously lower by organic waste accumulation. Therefore, no matter how good your filtration is, you still must water change regularly. We recommend a 1/3 – water water change fortnightly to keep pH above neutral and nitrates low.

The best tool to assist you with water changes is a Lee's Gravel Vacuum. They allow you to remove the dirtiest water from around the gravel and replace it with clean, treated tap water. This task is easier to do and a better job done if you have lightweight rocks and décor. We recommend you test pH and nitrate weekly to ensure your water changing maintenance is sufficient to maintain this balance. PH can be maintained using PH UP, but the only easy way to remove nitrate is by water changing.

An important tip when changing. Rinse your filter media in your old aquarium water rather than under a tap as the chlorine in tap water will kill off the precious filter bacteria living in the foam and other media. If you follow these procedures you should never have to completely break your tank down to clean it out.

Heating

If you want to keep Cichlids you will need to heat them. A good guide is approximately 1 watt of heating per liter of water. A higher wattage heater than necessary is often a good choice though because they can be used on larger aquariums. Position your heater in a back corner at a 45 degree angle so that heat does not rise directly onto the thermostat. Make sure that there is good water movement around the heater to ensure that the element is heating. Large cichlids can get quite boisterous, so a heater guard will stop your heater being broken. We believe it necessary to also install a thermostat to check the heater. The stick on types are the best in our opinion as the suction cup type soon do not stick and require replacement.

Lighting

Lighting is necessary to view your fish at night time. To achieve this we find it better to illuminate your tank from afternoon until bed time when people can more easily enjoy their tanks. Lighting left on all day will unduly cause excessive algae problems. For best results with plants we recommend high intensity full spectrum white lighting. We like to use Aquastars, Arcadia's or Power Glo's.

The African Cichlid Tank

The African Rift lake Cichlids from Lakes Malaqi, Tanganyika and Victoria have become a popular variety of fish for people who desire dramatic color, size and movement in their tanks. African cichlids are quite aggressive and fast moving and should be kept in tanks set up for a community of African cichlids.

Natural Habitat

African Cichlids inhabit the rocky shorelines of the rift lakes of Africa. The water in these lakes is quite hard and alkaline. Large schools of fish graze algae from the rocky outcrop reefs. Amongst the algae live small crustaceans which also constitute part of the diet of African cichlids.

The bottom of the lakes is sandy. Innumerable caves formed between the boulders offer protection to young fish and brooding females. Check out the Cichlid mansion and Amazon range of backgrounds if you want realism and something special. Most species from Lake Malawi are mouth brooders and constitution a large proportion of the species available in the hobby. A lot of the Tanganyikan species form lifetime pair bonds and protect their young, while others are also mouth brooders.

Rift Lake Water Conditioning

To recreate the hard alkaline water required by these fish, shell grit or coral sand should be added to your gravel or used exclusively for the bottom. African Rift lake sand is also becoming popular, but can show up detritus badly. Good quality African Cichlid water conditioners like the Seachem Rift Lake Salt and Buffers are a real advantage in creating the right water conditions.

There are several products that will remove both chlorine and ammonia, but the best value is …. Amquel Instant water Detoxifier.

Setting up African Rift Lake Cichlids

As African cichlids come from rocky shoreline areas of the lakes, we suggest that intricate rockwork form the basis of your set-up arranged to form area's with numerous caves. The rockwork should be predominately built up around the back and sides to leave a communal amphitheater where all the interaction and displays take place. A + RR Inc has a large range of rocks which are extremely attractive and offer plenty of hiding places. Plants are not essential to your African community tank because African Cichlids, being omnivorous, will eat your plants except for something like Anubias. One option here is to cut some holes in barnacle rock which allows the greenery to be seen but protects the base in the gravel from the fish. Plastic plants instead make a good addition.

Adding African Rift Lake Cichlids

Try to crowd your African cichlids without taxing your filtration and water change management. This stops individuals from becoming too dominant and harassing others.

We find it best to start with small to medium sizes of fishes of several species in groups of four.

(4 Electric Blue, 4 Electric Yellows, 4 Venustus, 4 Red Empress)

Of the Lake Malawi fishes, the most common species are Zebras, Pindani, Lombardoi and others. People often start with these species as they are cheaper and show color while still young. Many hobbyists progress to the slightly more expensive and spectacular 'Haplochromis' group, like Electric Blues, Red Empress and the Peacocks where only the males exhibit the most amazing color as they mature. In general Take Tanganyika fishes are a bit more expensive and comprise some of the most thought after species like Frontosa, "Lanprologus" and Trheus.

Feeding Africans

Feeding African Cichlids the right type of foods is very important. African Cichlids have extremely long intestinal tracts, like omnivores, which means that foods (meat, worms etc.) will take a long time to digest. Inappropriate foods will rot in their stomachs causing bloating, sickness and sometimes death. For this reason foods with a large proportion of spirulina and vegetables are best. Our favorites, HBH VEGE or Cichlid Flakes and Pellets are perfect. Super Bits are also eagerly taken but we do not like to feed Super Bits exclusively, but rather combined with Spirulina based foods. Frozen bloodworm and brine shrimp are also good for most species, but meats and live blackworm are definitely no-no's.

The American Cichlid Tank

American Cichlids are larger growing and slower moving than their African cousins. They are also far more predatory and are happy with a higher protein than Africans. For these reasons we do not recommend keeping American and African Cichlids together. Of course there is always the odd exception.

Natural Habitat

The natural habitat of the Central and South American cichlids is quite different to that of Africans. Logs and branches in general replace rocky outcrops still having a background that can provide safe secure retreats are important. We feel darker gravel such as the Red Gravel blend suits the reflective colors of Americans, compared to lighter substrates spawners who will form a pair bond. Spawns can produce hundreds of fry, the parents will try to protect and nurture their babies instinctively. It is not uncommon for pairs of fish to spawn in the community tank, although it is illegally that the parents will be able to protect babies from the hordes. Most American cichlids have also been in the hobby for a lot longer than Africans. Species like Oscars and Red Devils have become household names.

Water Conditioning

American Cichlids are quite tolerant of water conditions, but a pH close to neutral and low nitrates (regular water changes) provide a comfortable environment. Always treat new tap water well with XXXXXX and XXXXX as with all fish.

Setting Up for American Cichlids

Use plenty of logs. Submerge some rocks into the substrate and add more structure on top … Do not be concerned by excessive color from new logs as this will become less with regular water changing. You could use charred wood from A + RR Inc here as well. Plastic plants attached to small crevice rock will provide a splash of color. Of course you can use one of the Amazon or Cichlid mansion backgrounds that will create a stunning base for you to expand on.

Adding American Cichlids

Try to set up a large variety of young fish to grow up together. That way you will have far more compatible large fish when they grow up. Our favorite species are Oscars, Red Devils, Texas, Firemouths, Severums etc. Give them plenty of room to grow. Often people will ask, "What can I put with my large Oscar who has lived alone for a year?" if you put another single fish in, there is every chance that the new inhabitant will be killed. We advised it is better to trade in large fish and start with a community of smaller Americans.

Feeding Americans

American cichlids will consume a large variety of foods. HBH make a range of American specific cichlid foods. Advance the size of the pellets as your young fish grow. A wide variety of frozen foods are recommended in conjunction with live foods including feeder fish. Only offer feeder fish as a treat, otherwise they will become fussy about accepting prepared foods.

Dwarf Cichlids

The most popular dwarf cichlids are the Apistogrammas and Microgeophagus (Rams) from South America and the Pelvicachromis (Kribensis) from the Congo River system of Africa. These dwarf cichlids are a popular community fish that may spawn in a community tank and exercise parental care over their young if there is enough cover. They prefer a good varied diet of prepared frozen and live foods.

Discus

Discuses are a popular group of cichlids kept by enthusiasts all over the world. Many claim Discus are the "King of Fishes". Discus are definitely a fish that require some experience, although they may be kept in a community tank. The major requirement to keeping Discus well is good water management and the best foods. Discuses seem to metabolize quickly and need to be fed often with high quality prepared and frozen foods. The best are Tetra Bits with daily frozen food like Beef Heart and Liver and Discus Dinner. Once Discus are feeding well they are competitive and hardy.

Discus are usually happy in low nitrate water with pH slightly acidic and soft water which is very warm 29-32 Degrees Celsius. For breeding Discus, the fish need to be well conditioned on the best foods. The best range of water conditioners for Discus are the Seachem range of Discus Buffers.

The major problem with Discus is their susceptibility to parasites like gill flakes as well as intestinal worms and flagellates. We advise regular treatments for parasites with General Cure or Worm-Rid, especially after Discus are newly purchased or moved. Intestinal worms are best treated with Worm-Rid and flagellates with Octozin. An inexpensive, yet very good book is the Barron's Discus Fishes.

Enjoy setting up your tank and we love receiving your pictures of the products from A + RR Inc (Aquarium + Reptile Rocks Inc).

Win Your Next Property Tax Appeal in Texas – 10 Basic Steps

First – Learn the Facts

You are most likely to succeed with your property tax appeal if you find factual errors in your property tax record, also known as an “appraisal card”. Mistakes in real estate appraisals, such as errors about the age of improvements or incorrect square footage measurements are not uncommon.

After you file a Notice of Protest, the appraisal district will schedule an informal conference with one of their staff appraisers. Bring any proof for your case to the appointment in the form of photos or other documentation supporting your claims. The appraisal district will need to keep your evidence for their file, so remember to bring extra copies.

Understand How Your Home Has Been Appraised

Harris County Appraisal District [HCAD] has over a million single-family residential properties to appraise. Montgomery Central Appraisal District [MCAD] has responsibility for valuing about 250,000 homes. The daunting reality is that there are not enough well-trained staff appraisers to go around.

In the real world, appraisal district employees sometimes are not able to inspect much beyond new construction or additions. Even when properties are inspected, the examination may be hardly more than a drive-by. It is more common now for appraisal districts to rely on aerial pictometry for various aspects of property inspection. The level of technological resources now available to most appraisal districts is impressive.

Given the overwhelming number of properties that must be re-valued, these appraisal districts are dependent on computer mass appraisal models. The mass appraisal models that counties use are inevitably imperfect, although some are better than others. Your quest will be to determine the ways and the degree to which your property and your neighborhood have not altogether fit the model.

You may ask a real estate agent to help you find some comparable homes and their actual sales prices. Most good agents don’t mind helping you, because you may work with them later. Remember you want to be able to prove that your house is in a lesser condition than the comparable sales. Try to compare your home to the best ones in your neighborhood. If you can find information on better homes that sold below your assessed value during the prior year, you may have the grounds for a reduction.

Research the Value of Your Neighbors’ Homes

The easiest way for most homeowners to develop an appeal is to use the sales comparison approach to market value in their appeal, however the sales do not always favor your case. Another angle you can try is to determine if your home has been appraised in a “uniform & equal” manner to other similar properties in the same neighborhood.

Check if the appraisal district’s value of your house is at, or below, the median of the tax appraisal value of other homes in your neighborhood. Texas appraisal districts will have this information available online through their websites.

Obtain the Appraisal District’s Evidence

Along with your “Notice of Protest”, submit a request in writing for all the evidence the appraisal district used to value your home and intends to present at an Appraisal Review Board [ARB] hearing. It is also referred to as the House Bill 201 [HB 201] packet. Review this information to ascertain how the appraisal district determined the value of your home. You may find that this uncovers shortcomings the appraisal district’s case.

Don’t Lose Hope – You Have a Few Chances to Get It Right

If you are unable to settle your case one-on-one with a staff appraiser in an informal conference, the next level of administrative appeal is a formal Appraisal Review Board [ARB] hearing. Montgomery Central Appraisal District [MCAD] will have your formal hearing the same day. They immediately escort you down the hall and show you to the waiting area to present your case. Harris County Appraisal District [HCAD] will reschedule you to return to their office on another day to have a formal hearing. You will almost always wait two weeks.

The ARB hearing will be like a minor courtroom setting in which you make the presentation of your case. An experienced senior appraiser will represent the case on behalf of the appraisal district. A panel of at least three, supposedly impartial, appraisal review board members will hear the case and render a final decision. Important Warning: The ARB has the authority to actually RAISE your property value, so consider this risk. Also, do not forget to bring extra copies of all your evidence ( five altogether ) for the appraisal district and the ARB panel.

If your formal ARB hearing does not have a satisfactory outcome, you may still have two additional options available. For residential properties valued below $1-million, you can file an application for binding arbitration through the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. There are fees of $250 or $500, depending on the level of involvement of your case. The other option is to file a law suit in district court against the appraisal district. As both of these procedures are time consuming and costly, you will need to decide if they are practical in your case.

Get Started – 10 Action Steps

1. Get a copy of your property tax record, or “appraisal card”. Texas appraisal districts will have this information online through their websites. If you cannot find it, call the appraisal district office for assistance.

2. Review the appraisal record for errors in your favor.

3. Find out if you are eligible for any special exemptions and apply for them. Examples are the Texas general homestead, over 65, disabled, or veterans exemptions.

4. File a “Notice of Protest” before the statutory deadline. This is usually May 31st or within 30 days of sending your “Notice of Appraised Value”.

5. Study the appraisal district’s evidence, the HB 201 packet.

6. Try to get help from a real estate agent to identify the details about good comparable sales (… and remember who helped you whenever you have a real estate transaction that pays ).

7. Take photos of your home and the other properties you are using for comparison. If you do not have a good camera, borrow one; or ask a friend to help you.

8. Make detailed written notes about precisely what you think should be the right value and the reasons for the reduction. Prepare your presentation and be able to show the proof to support your claim. This needs to consist of factual evidence such as dated photos, documentation of recent sales, and neighbors’ appraisal values.

9. Be kind and respectful to the other appraisal district staff and ARB members. Never forget they are also human and have feelings, like you. Remember the time tested expression, “You can catch more with honey than with vinegar.”

10. If you think it stands in your best interest, appeal your case to a formal ARB hearing. This may be a roll of the dice though. Depending on the make-up of the panel and their state of mind on the particular day of your hearing, your ordeal could be more favorable or it could become even worse.

If all this seems like a good deal of effort, there is yet another way to help ensure you get the best possible outcome. You can have a property tax consultant prepare and present your case, providing professional representation for you at appraisal district hearings. You can get the benefits of this service on a contingency basis, so it will cost you nothing unless you actually save money — that you would have paid in taxes.

Tips for Your Sari to Look Brand New

You and only you know just how gorgeous you are and how much pains you went through to select that beautiful designer sari and only you will truly understand how horrible it is to have a stain on that perfect sari. So here are a few sari care tips to ensure that even your 7 year old sari looks brand new and there is absolutely no sign of stains.

Saris are available in a variety or prints, colors, work and just as many fabrics. Every fabric has to be tended to differently and taken care of in a different manner.

1. Cotton Saris:

Let's start with the basics. You will notice that when you purchase a cotton sari, it is stiff. That is because the sari has plenty of starch – something that is essential during the weaving or painting procedure. It is quite simple to get the starch out. All you have to do is dip the sari in a bucket of warm salt water and let it soak for a while. Ensure that you soak saris individually since they may bleed in their first wash. Never wring a wet cotton sari. It loosens the fabric. Instead, gently squeeze out the excess water and hang it up to dry in direct sunlight.

2. Chiffon and Georgette Saris:

Chiffon and Georgette are both flowing substances that look awesome when adorned. It may be the unique delicateness that adds flavor to your look but it is exactly that feature of the fabrics that make it so tough to care for. It is reliably easier to wash them. They can be both hand washed – a preferable option if the sari is filled with work – or machine washed in the delicate mode. However, the real issue begins with the ironing and adorning. You have to be very careful while ironing these saris because a slight increase in heat will cause holes. Similarly, it is advisable not to use safety pins in these saris since they may tear.

3. Tissue and Organza Saris:

These saris also firmly belong to the delicate category and require plenty of care. Be careful about how you dry the sari. Also, never leave the sari hanging since it alters the basic shape. These saris have to be wrapped in muslin cloth and preferably dry cleaned. If you do not use these saris often, make sure you take them out and re fold them time and again to avoid any tears.

Silk Saris:

They are just as expensive as they are gorgeous. Ensure that you always dry clean silk saris, especially crepe silks and heavy brocades. While it is possible to hand wash silk saris, I would strongly advise against that. However, if you do feel like hand washing your silk sari, then be very careful. Also add a small drop of hair conditioner to the rinse water. It helps soften the fabric and give it a beautiful sheen. Machine wash is a strict no no. Wrap your silk saris in a muslin cloth and store them in a cool, dry place.