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So You Want Pet Fish

The Basics:

Don’t get to ambitious and take your time setting up your tank and you will find that your patience will pay off.

The Aquarum (tank), lights and base: Firstly, you need to consider where to put your tank, once it is full of water it will be very difficult to move. Your aquarium should be positioned near a mains power supply, away from draughts and direct sunlight to avoid the growth of algae, and out of reach of small children or pets. It is always better to use a stand that is made for the aquarium, in fact some manufacters will not guarantee the tank if you don't. However I do recommend you use a specially made aquarium stand or cabinet to hold the tank level or hairline cracks may occur. Use aquarium foam or polystyrene pads to cushion the tank if it does not have raised glass on the bottom and place your tank away from electrical equipment. Most tanks will come with a hood containing lights this is important in that you can create a natural day and night environment for your fish and live plants. Howver there are various options if not. I would also advise that you put your ighting on a timer, too much light can cause algae.

You can also add a background on your aquarium to further enhance its appearance. 

 


A goldfish bowl is not recommended, please see Fish in Bowls:

There are other things that you will also need.

Heater: This is essential if you want to keep tropical fish, the size required depends on the size of your tank.

Thermometer: If you are keeping tropical fish you need a thermometer that is visible so that you can check that the temperature stays constant and doesn't fluctuate.

Aquarium Filter: Internal or external, this is a matter of choice and dependant on the size of the tank. It is a critical components of both freshwater and marine aquaria. Filters remove physical and soluble chemical waste products from tanks, simplifying maintenance. Filters are necessary to support life as tanks are relatively small, closed volumes of water compared to the natural environment of most fish. Fish, kept in tanks produce waste from excrement and respiration. Another source of waste is uneaten food or plants and fish which have died. These waste products collect in the tanks and contaminate the water. As the degree of contamination rises, the risk to the health of the aquaria increases and removal of the contamination becomes critical. Filtration is a common method used for maintenance of healthy aquaria.

Gravel/Sand (Substrate): Provides a natural environment for your fish and a good rooting base for live plants.

Plants: Live or artificial: they help to create a natural environment for your fish. Live plants also provide an important alternative food source for many types of fish.

This is Elodia one of the more common oxygenator plants.

I have noticed when browsing the internet that there is some doubt whether or not there are any underwater flowering plants for aquariums. Amongst other plants I have Anubias and these do have a white flower.

 

 

 


Other Equipment

Ornaments: Aside from simple decoration, ornaments provide hiding places and shelter for fish, as well as interesting features to swim around.

Air Pump: This is good for additional oxygenation and can also be used for underwater ornaments that need an air supply to work them.

Fish Net: It is important not to handle your fish and to use a net that is tightly woven to reduce the chances of catching gills or barbs in the mesh.

Cleaning Pad: (Algae Scraper) a pad or scraper for cleaning algae off aquariums. check that you get the right one for your aquarium, glass or acrylic.

Gravel Cleaners: are designed to separate and remove debris from the aquarium during routine water changes. (See link below)


 Water Condition and Quality

The condition of the water is most important and must be maintained.

Tap Water Conditioner: An essential item when setting up a tank. Tap water is treated with chemicals which make it safe for us to drink but toxic to fish. A water conditioner or dechlorinator removes the harmful chemicals. Also to be used when topping up your tank.

Filter Boost: Eliminates ammonia and nitrate. It helps prevent fish loss and also promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in your filter.

A Water Test Kit: Water testing helps ensure the correct conditions and reducing the need for fish medicines. Regular water testing will help all aquariums achieve and realise the health and beauty they are capable of demonstrating when all essential conditions are met. Fish that are exposed to even small consistent levels of nitrite that may be the result of an improperly maintained or sized filter system may perish or never seem as vibrant as they can be. Plants that are constantly lacking essential trace minerals such as iron may perish or never demonstrate the rich vibrant greens and reds that make a planted aquarium a unique underwater garden

Water Quality: pH measures the water's acidity/alkalinity. The pH scale runs from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline) and pH7 is an ideal level for the majority of fish. Some fish do prefer different pH levels so make sure you check before you buy. A temperature of 24-26 degrees is standard for a tropical aquarium and is regulated by a thermostat in the heater.

Ammonia and nitrite levels should be regulated and although they both occur naturally from fish waste, bacteria living inside your filter convert these dangerous chemicals into nitrate which is less harmful. Regular water changes should keep these levels close to zero. However, bacteria takes time to build up and new tanks are particularly susceptible to high levels of dangerous chemicals. A filter boost can be added to promote the growth of bacteria and speed up this process.

To maintain ideal water conditions and prevent the build up of dangerous chemicals in new aquariums, perform water changes at least once a week by removing 20% of the tank's volume and replacing it with clean (dechlorinated) water. You can reduce the frequency of water changes to once fortnightly when the chemical levels seem to have settled. You will need to rinse the filter media on a regular basis to remove any large sediment and clear the impellor inside the filter from sludge, but in both cases you must ensure you rinse with water from your tank and not from the tap. If you have any questions about water quality or tank maintenance then your store team will be happy to help

 


Setting Your Tank Up

Once you have all the necessary equipment you can set up your aquarium following these basic steps:

Please remember to always wash your hands before and after working with fish

1. Wash out your new tank and place it in its intended position. Make sure there are no cracks or damage to the tank.
2. Wash the gravel in cool, clean water. Do not use soap or detergents.
3. Cover the bottom of the tank with gravel to a depth of 5cm at the rear sloping to 3cm at the front. This ensures any waste will accumulate at the front where it can be easily removed.
4. Fit your heating, lighting, aeration and filtration equipment following the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Do not plug the equipment in yet.
5. Half fill your tank with cold water without disturbing the gravel bed. One method is to lay a piece of polythene, or plastic bag, on the gravel and place a bowl on top. Pour the water into the bowl so that it flows over the side onto the polythene.
6. Wash your plants and decorations thoroughly in clean water and then place them in the tank. Arrange your taller plants at the rear of the tank with the smaller ones at the front to create more depth.
7. Fill the tank to within 2-3cm of the top and add the water conditioner.
8.Plug in and switch on the air pump and filter. Wait 20-30 minutes then switch on the heater.
9.It is important to wait for at least 3 days with all systems running before adding any fish. Initially the water may appear a little cloudy but it will clear.

Choosing your fish: There are plenty of tropical and coldwater (temperate) fish to choose from but it is important that you make informed choices; some fish are not very sociable and will fight, whilst others prefer to live in shoals of their own kind and should not be kept in isolation. When buying your first fish be sure to ask the store team what they would recommend for a new aquarium to ensure you choose the most suitable fish and plan the best community.

Taking them home The fish should packed carefully for the journey to their new home, firstly in a plastic bag and then a brown paper bag as keeping them in the dark reduces stress whilst being transported. They should not be kept in the bag for longer than 1-2 hours. When transporting your fish, take care not to allow them to get too hot or too cold as this can also cause stress. When you get them home, turn off your aquarium light and float the bag in your tank for about twenty minutes, allowing the water temperature to equalize, then add some of your aquarium water to the bag and wait a further 10 minutes before transferring the fish into the aquarium with a net. Throw the old water away and do not mix it with the water in your tank.

The fish may be nervous and hide for a period of time, so leave the aquarium light off and let them settle down for a few hours before feeding them.

Introducing fish: It is important to introduce fish gradually over a number of weeks and not to overstock your aquarium. Your filter will need time to adjust to the increase of ammonia in the water - if stocked too quickly the filter will not be able to control the levels of waste produced and the water will quickly become toxic, so only add a few fish at a time. It can be beneficial over this period to use an ammonia remover. Maintain regular water changes throughout the stocking period to keep control of the rising ammonia levels. We use general guidelines to determine how many fish are suitable for any one aquarium. Tanks are different shapes and sizes, so there is no exact rule, but this is a 'size versus volume' rule as a guide:

Coldwater fish: 0.5cm of fish per litre of water,  Tropical fish: 1cm of fish per litre of water

Remember that this is only a guide to maximum stocking levels, based on the size of fully grown fish. Always account for growth when buying your fish. 

 


Feeding Your Fish

There are a number of fish foods available in flake or pellet form which provide a perfectly balanced diet with all the nutrients your fish require to stay healthy. Frozen food is nutritious and provides essential variety in your fish's diet.

Flaked food is suitable for all kinds of fish, although there are many types of specialist foods appropriate for fish that feed in different ways:
• Surface feeders will readily take flakes and floating pellets.
• Mid water feeders like granular or slow sinking foods.
• Bottom feeders should be offered quick sinking foods or tablets.
Feed your fish once a day, offering just enough food so that it is eaten within 2 minutes. Start with a small amount and adjust accordingly. Over-feeding will pollute the water, so ensure any excess food is removed from the tank after feeding. Maintaining a healthy aquarium

Maintaining the water quality is the most important factor in keeping fish healthy. Regular water changes are vital for keeping your fish healthy. New fish are more susceptible to disease, due to the stress of being moved. New fish should therefore be observed very carefully for several days after they are introduced. It is vital for your fish that you maintain a healthy aquatic environment and although many water problems are not visible to the naked eye, the effects on your fish often are. If you observe any changes in behaviour or unusual spots or markings on your fish, they may have contracted an illness and will require treatment to recover. Treatment may range from a substantial water change to a chemical treatment, but many diseases, if addressed early, are curable.

As a general guideline, you could start with a 20-30% water change once a week. Some people prefer to do a larger change less frequently, such as 40-50% every two weeks. This is dependant on many things not least the size of your tank and the amount of fish in it. It is important that when you wash your filter media that you do not use tap water but the water takem out of the tank during the change. Changing filter media media ids agin dependant on the size of your tank and the fish stock in it, usually recommendations wiil be included in the filter instructions.

Please note that this article is my own personal opinion and meant to help assist your decisions, others may not agree with me. Remember whatever you buy always read the label.

Please also see other aquarium related article on this site.

 


Fish In Bowls


Many countries have banned the keeping of fish in bowls stating that it is cruel and unhealthy for the fish because it can be difficult to provide for the fish correctly. Usually the smaller the container the quicker the water quality will deteriorate through evaporation and pollution caused by waste and uneaten food.  Goldfish can live for up to 20 years, but often die prematurely because their owners keep them in bowls or very small fish tanks. In this case bigger is better.

 

Published 03/03/2014

   
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