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Aquarium

Water

Water for filling a newly purchased aquarium is available from a variety of sources. Using tap water, which has been treated with chlorine for human use, can be deadly to aquatic pets. The chlorine needs to be Getting Started with a Freshwater removed by using dechlorinator. This product instantly removes Aquarium chlorine and chloramines from water. 1. Aquarium Water 2. Choosing Freshwater Fish You can use dechlorinated tap water since most purchased freshwater 3. Aquariums & Stands fish are raised in a hatchery with standard aquarium water conditions. 4. Hoods & Lighting All the water added to an aquarium must be dechlorinated, even the 5. Heaters & Thermometers water put it the aquarium to replenish water lost to evaporation. Some 6. Air Pumps & Accessories hobbyists collect rainwater for aquariums. Contaminants from factories, 7. Filters smog, and other pollutants in the water must be treated before using it. 8. Gravel & Dcor (This could end up being a costly process for aquarium setup.) Your fish do not need to be placed in water from a pond or river, as fish easily adjust to tap water that has been dechlorinated. Step 2: Choosing Freshwater Fish GUIDE TO SETTING UP AN AQUARIUM (FRESHWATER) by Pearl A.

Most pets breathe the same air and live in similar conditions as we do, so making them comfortable is simple. Aquarium fish, widely misunderstood as "easy" pets, actually require us to create a livable habitat, almost from scratch. There's a reason keeping fish is a "hobby" and not just owning another pet! Keeping a freshwater aquarium is not difficult, but you should expect to spend some time and care on your fish most of it right up front. Once a healthy fish tank is set up, care for fish becomes largely a matter of keeping good habits, and a beautiful aquarium can easily take up less of your time than other pets. We want you be successful with your freshwater aquarium! This is a guide to getting started. (Use the links below to skip ahead, or as a quick reference checklist.) Planning Location Tank Size Stocking Fish Patience!

Essential Equipment for Setup Filters Aquarium Lighting Heater & Thermometer Aquarium Substrates Decorations and Backgrounds Water Conditioner Test Kits

Setting Up

Leak Test Aquascape Install and Test Equipment

Cycling Your Aquarium Adding Things You'll Need Down the Road PLANNING Most failures and unforeseen expenses encountered by first-time fish keepers can be avoided with a little foresight. Take some time to plan your first setup it's fun! Location It's best to pick a permanent location - a gallon of water weighs a little over 8 lbs; with substrate a 10 gallon tank can weigh over 100 lbs. Leave wiggle room behind the tank for equipment and cables and ensure you can access everything for maintenance. The surface that supports your tank must be level and very sturdy. Larger tanks may need special furniture - stands can be purchased or built; be certain of the quality of construction! Here are some other things to keep in mind: Avoid direct sunlight, which promotes algae growth and can cause overheating. Don't get too close to windows and doors, which create drafts and temperature changes Avoid highly trafficked areas - constant movement past the tank is stressful for fish. Make sure you are close to electrical outlets and will not be overloading a circuit. Your tank should be at a good height for comfortable viewing - and maintenance! Fishless Cycle Cycle with Plants Cycle with Hardy Fish Fish

Tank

Size

Very small bowls or tanks from a half gallon to 5 gallons in size are limited in use. The smallest of these are only suitable for bettas; larger tiny tanks can accommodate other tiny species. (Goldfish actually need quite a bit of room and can outgrow a 10 gallon tank quickly.) If you want to keep a betta bowl, get the largest small bowl you can! Small "desktop" aquariums of 5-10 gallons are limited as well; even so, they are popular with beginners who want to start small. Just be mindful of the adult size of the fish you want to keep, and resist the temptation to overstock! Ideally, start with a fish tank somewhere between small and large - between 20 and 55 gallons for a freshwater tank gives you a good range of options, without being too demanding in terms of maintenance. More water volume means changes happen slowly, since there is more water to "buffer" or absorb the shock - much more forgiving for the beginner. Some tanks are "tall" (or "long") and some are "wide". Tall tanks are narrow; they are attractive to look at but they offer less surface area than wider, lower tanks. Surface area - the surface of your water - is where gas exchange occurs; where oxygen enters your water and waste gases escape. In a tall tank where there is less water exposed at the surface, you may need additional equipment to make sure enough oxygen is getting into your system (fish, like all animals, need oxygen to live)

Stocking A common formula tells you to provide a gallon of water per inch of fish you want to keep (this refers to the adult size of the fish). This formula does not always apply. Fish the same length differ in mass - larger fish need more water. Some fish produce the same amount of waste as several other fish their size. Still others are adapted to swimming very fast for long distances, or are territorial and can turn aggressive if there isn't enough space for them to feel comfortable sharing. Planning your livestock is wise. It's easy to find information on common freshwater species - there are many books and online resources available. If you're interested in live plants, plan them too. They need different levels of light and care. Some fishes will vigorously uproot anything you plant, so you may need to make a choice! We recommend that beginners stick to peaceful fish and combinations of fish that will get along. "Hardy" (disease and change resistant) species are also a good choice. Goldfish are cold water fish but most freshwater species are tropical, so you can't keep them in the same tank. Most freshwater fish can adapt to a range of pH levels as long as they are slowly acclimated; as a beginner you may wish to avoid those with very specific pH needs. Freshwater fish in general can adapt to the pH of your tap water more easily than you can change the pH (and maintain the change). It is sensible to buy a pH test kit during the planning stages and test your tap water to find out what you're working with - then plan to stock fish that can live comfortably at that level. Here are stocking recommendations for a few common freshwater aquarium species (remember that small tanks need frequent cleaning to maintain good conditions): Species Cherry Barb Neon Tetra Guppy Goldfish Angelfish Discus Oscar Minimum Tank Size 5 gallons 10 gallons 10 gallons 20 gallons (yes, 20!**) 40 gallons (depth min. 18") 55 gallons How Many 2-3 6 (schooling fish*) 3-4 1-2 4 2 Adult Length 1.5" 1.5" 2" 12"-2 feet 6" 6-8" round 13"

5-6 (schooling fish*) 1.5-2"

Sparkling Gourami 5 gallons

29 gallons (tall is better b/c fin size) 2

*Schooling fish display fuller colors and better behavior when kept in groups of 6 or more. Their schooling - darting back and forth together as a group is beautiful to watch! **Goldfish are notoriously dirty; for additional fish provide 10 gallons each. Patience!

The truth is that if you want and expect to keep your fishes for a good long time - most live for years with proper care - you are going to have to get used to the idea that a healthy aquarium can't be rushed. Take it step by step and accept that it's just part of the process - planning will ease the frustration of waiting and heighten your anticipation! ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT FOR SETUP

Once you know your tank size, pick up the equipment you need to get it up and running.

Aquarium

Filters

Aquarium filters suggest a tank size or tell you a GPH for each model. GPH, or gallons per hour, is the flow rate of water pumped through the filter. Most freshwater tanks need to be "turned over" 4x an hour - multiply the total volume of your tank by 4 for the minimum GPH you will need. Then adjust upward from that - buy the second or third higher model from the rating that fits your tank. For detailed information on choosing an appropriate filter, see our full-length article on choosing aquarium filters.

Aquarium

Lighting

Freshwater aquarium lights ideally are Kelvin rated between 5500-6700K - this spectrum is a little warmer than that used for marine lighting, and promotes live plant growth. (Anything lower will give you algae problems.) Even without live plants, it will show off fake plants and freshwater fish to their best appearance. If you bought an aquarium kit, it probably came with a light fixture. If you're buying a light fixture separately, make sure it will fit your tank or canopy. And do buy a hood or canopy! Many fish will jump out of your tank if you don't have one, and glass canopies especially will cut down on evaporation. For detailed information on the types of bulbs and lighting available, see our full length article on choosing aquarium lighting.

Heater

&

Thermometer

Aside from goldfish, most aquarium fish are from tropical climates - which means they are used to warmth and stable temperatures (large bodies of water take a long time to cool down or warm up). You will need an aquarium heater - and an aquarium thermometer to make sure your heater is working. They are inexpensive and critical to maintaining steady tropical warmth year round. Even if you live in a tropical zone, shifts in temperature that can occur from day to night are dangerous to fish. Even bettas will live longer and healthier with a heater. Many hobbyists choose to use two less powerful heaters for more even heating and backup in case of problems.

Aquarium

Substrates

If you want live plants, it's worth it to spend more on a plant substrate. Otherwise, look for "inert" substrates that will not affect your pH or alkalinity. Sand and gravel are nicer to look at than a bare, dirty tank floor - they also provide surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize. Use only substrates that are aquarium safe. Aquarium sand is good if you plan to keep bottom dwellers that might be damaged by rough gravel. But stay away from fine sands unless you plan to keep burrowers; otherwise it will compact to form "anaerobic" zones where a lack of oxygen allows dangerous chemicals to form. Beyond this, substrate choice is largely aesthetic. For most tanks you'll want about a pound of substrate/gallon; if planting, build up about 2-3 inches on your tank floor. If you can add a handful of sand or gravel from a healthy, established tank, it will speed up the "cycling"

process

(more

on

this

later).

Decorations

and

Backgrounds

Real or fake aquarium plants and decorative caves or tunnels relieve fish stress by making them feel safer. Give them places to hide! Decorations should be non-toxic and aquarium safe. Air stones are popular for their dynamic appearance; they also stir up the water a little to promote gas exchange. (An air pump is a smart investment, but I've left it off the essential equipment list since it is possible for a filter to provide adequate aeration. The more fish you want or the larger your tank is, the more likely it is you need an air pump - and plants take up oxygen at night, so it's wise to have one for a planted tank too.) Aquarium backgrounds hide cables and equipment behind your tank. They also create an illusion of greater depth. There are many choices, and even a plain blue or black background looks great - you can even paint the back of your tank for a similar effect (on the outside, of course).

Water

Conditioner

Tap water contains heavy metals from the piping it runs through, and chlorine or chloramine to kill bacteria. These are harmful to your aquarium, so you need to condition tap water before filling, changing or replacing water in your tank. A good water conditioner neutralizes chlorine and heavy metals and "ages" the water to make it less of a shock to your fishes' delicate system. Many stress relievers condition your water, with the added bonus of enhancing your fish's "slime coat", the barrier over its skin which serves as its best immune defense.

Test

Kits

Along with a pH kit, you will need ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test kits during the crucial "cycling" phase of your aquarium (more later). Freshwater "master" kits usually include all of these tests.

SETTING UP

Before you bring any fish home, set up your tank and equipment. This way you can make sure everything is running properly, and you can make repairs or exchanges before there are fish to worry about. More importantly, this step allows you to establish healthy water conditions before you bring fish home. Leak Test

When you get your tank, fill the whole thing up with tap water. (Do not use bleach or chemical cleaners.) If your tank is large, you can do it in the yard with a garden hose. Set it on a level, solid surface first and cushion the bottom. If you have leaks, fix them with an aquarium-safe sealant, let it set and test again. Aquascape Once your tank is leak-proof, empty it and then place it in its final resting place. At this point you can begin "aquascaping", or decorating your tank! Attach your background first.

Second, rinse your substrates in tap water - using a large bucket will make it easy (a 5 gallon bucket will be useful to you once you start doing water changes). Planting substrates may not need rinsing; check the packaging. Otherwise, rinse, drain and repeat until there is minimal clouding. Then you can add it to your tank. Next, rinse your decorations in warm tap water and place them where you want them. You'll be able to move them around later on, but you want them in the tank now to start building up bacteria. Install and Test Equipment

Now install your equipment. Place your heater near your filter's output for more even heating. Check your filter components and other equipment to make sure the parts are firmly connected and nothing is visibly broken. Make sure there is adequate space between the components and the wall behind your tank, and that you can access everything for maintenance. Make sure any extension cords are properly grounded. Create "drip loops" in your power cords by weighing them down in one spot - this way any water that might drip down the cord will fall to the floor instead of going into the outlet and causing an electrical short. Prepare your water with a water conditioner - even though there are no fish at this point, chlorine in tap water will kill the bacteria you need to colonize your substrates and filter. Then fill your aquarium - slowly! If adding plants, it's easiest to plant them when your tank is about 1/3 or a 1/4 full (depending on how deep it is). Now, turn on your equipment and let it run. Make sure your lights work, and check for leaks or bad connections. Let your filter and heater and any pumps run from this point on. After a day or so, check that the temperature on your thermometer matches the thermostat setting on your heater. Lights can stay off until you bring fish home - unless you've got plants, in which case you can begin to practice your lighting cycle - keep them on 10-12 hours a day or so, then turn them off at night. CYCLING YOUR AQUARIUM

"Cycling" is the process of letting your tank accumulate healthy bacterial growth in its filters and substrates. Fish poop and uneaten food create ammonia when they decompose, and ammonia is toxic. The only thing that removes it is bacteria, which convert it into nitrite, also harmful, and then nitrate, harmless in small amounts. Nitrates are removed through water changes (and to a lesser extent, by plants). This conversion process is the "nitrogen cycle".

For fish to live safely, the nitrogen cycle must be complete - otherwise there is free ammonia floating in your water and it will kill your fish. Despite the growing number of websites dedicated to cycling, beginners often haven't heard of it, and retailers don't tell them! Why? Because cycling a tank can take as much as 4-8 weeks. This would discourage impulse buyers, not to mention they couldn't send you home with a fish on that day. Take heart - there are ways to speed up the process. Regardless of how you go about it, you will need ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test kits to figure out when your nitrogen cycle is in place. There are three basic methods of establishing the cycle. Fishless Cycling

This method takes time, but is simple. Your tank should be completely set up with only the lights off. Now, "feed" bacteria by adding drops of pure ammonia, available and inexpensive at your grocery store (there should be no perfumes or additives). Test your ammonia levels after about half an hour - you want to get them to about 5 ppm.

After about a week, test again. Ammonia should have dropped, while nitrite will now appear. Add more ammonia to get the level back up, then wait another week or so. You may see nitrite spike when ammonia begins to fall - this is a good sign. In a few weeks, your ammonia levels should be dropping more quickly, your nitrite levels should be falling, and you'll see the appearance of nitrate. At this point you can do a 25% water change, using water conditioner to prep the water. Repeat the process, replenishing conditioned water when it evaporates. Along the way you may see white cloudy water - these are bacterial blooms and will go away within weeks. Eventually you will have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, with low nitrate levels. At this point your tank is cycled. Without help, this could take 6-8 weeks. However, there are some ways to speed it up. The quickest way to add bacteria is usually to find some from an existing healthy tank, from a friend or local fish store - a sponge filter, sand or gravel, or even dirty decorations will bring bacteria into your tank (make sure you transport them in water). Raising the temperature to around 85 degrees should help bacteria grow faster too. "Cycling aids" are products which may increase bacterial growth, but they should not be relied on as instant fixes. Don't assume you're cycled when you first see 0 ammonia and nitrite - in an empty tank, the cycle can't begin until you first have ammonia, which you can only get by "feeding" an ammonia source. You'll still need to make sure that ammonia rises, followed by a drop in ammonia and a rise in nitrite, and then wait until ammonia and nitrite get back to 0 and nitrates are under control via water changes. Cycling with Plants

Plants consume ammonia, nitrite and nitrates too, which makes the cycling process go much faster. With some plants it may only take days. You should test to see when it is safe to add fish. Consider using an air pump to make up for the oxygen consumed by plants at night (you can put it on a timer and only run it at night if you wish) - the bacteria you are trying to establish also need oxygen to survive. Cycling with Hardy Fish

This is the most common cycling method recommended by retailers. It involves adding a couple of hardier aquarium fish to your tank and letting their waste establish the cycle "naturally". The truth is that all fish are harmed by ammonia. It's still a poison, and will shorten their life span and cause them great stress even if they survive. If you were advised to take this route and are already committed, the best thing to do is add some sand or gravel or filter media from an established tank, quick! Adding a plant or two could help as well, but if the plant dies off remove it immediately, before it can decay and add to the ammonia load. We heartily recommend that you use one of other cycling methods instead. Fish are animals too, and can be wonderfully interactive, with vivid personalities. It's our responsibility to keep them safe and healthy. All this requires from us is a little patience. ADDING FISH

Finally you can add your fish! And because you've cycled your tank, you can fully stock your tank at once. However it is good practice to test ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels after adding new creatures to make sure that everything is still going well. Clip or secure the plastic bag containing your fish (one at a time) to the side of your tank. Float it there for a little while, then - over a period of 20 minutes or so - scoop a little water out of the bag and replace it with a water from your tank. Keep going until all the water in the bag is from your tank, then add the fish. This lets your fish adjust to the new temperature and pH gradually, avoiding shock. Your fish may take a day or two to resume normal behavior, but the steps you have taken will give it the best chance of survival. Change about 25% of your aquarium water every week or when nitrate levels reach about 20-30 ppm. Make sure to siphon or vacuum excess waste from your substrates when you do. You're off to a great start! You can settle into a regular maintenance routine that won't require much time and will bring great results. Avoid overfeeding and do weekly partial water changes - this is the best way to avoid a wide variety of problems that are timely and expensive to fix afterwards. Clean filter components and equipment every few months, but avoid removing or cleaning large amounts of biological media or substrate at once - remember, you need the bacteria living on them. Testing crucial parameters like ammonia or pH whenever there's a change in your tank - a new fish, or a death or illness - will help you keep tabs on what's happening; keep notes to track any potential developing problems. THINGS YOU'LL NEED DOWN THE ROAD

Of course, you can pick these up as early as you want, but you'll almost certainly want them soon after setting up your freshwater tank. There may be other things you determine you want or need later; I've tried to keep here to the basics. Maintenance Equipment

Gravel vacuums or siphons remove excess waste from your substrates, helping out your filters and keeping conditions clean. A couple of 5 gallon buckets will be indispensable for water changes. You'll need a manual scraper or magnetic cleaner to remove normal algae buildup from your walls - these are intended either for glass or acrylic; make sure you get the right kind or you'll scratch your tank. Nets help you move your fishes safely if necessary, and you never know when it'll become necessary! Reserve a separate net for your quarantine tank (below). Pick up a net cleaner as well (avoid chemical cleaners not intended for aquarium use).

Quarantine Tank It only takes one wipe-out of your entire aquarium for most hobbyists to realize that the quarantine tank really is an important piece of equipment! A Quarantine Tank is a small tank with a heater and sponge filter, with minimal, cheap decor or pvc piping for shelter. Cycle it with some of the gravel from your main tank, or keep the sponge in your main tank until you need the quarantine unit. Placing any new fish in this tank for 6-8 weeks before adding them to your main tank will let you catch and treat diseases before they can infect your whole community. Also called a "hospital tank", use it to quarantine sick fish immediately and avoid spreading the illness. Aquarium medicines are often quite potent and it's best to avoid medicating your whole tank if possible.

Lighting Timers and Automatic Feeders Lighting timers and automatic feeders may seem like luxuries, but odds are that you will want them eventually. The fact is, we go out of town, or sometimes we simply forget! Failing to turn off daylight lamps at night seriously stresses out your fish, as do inconsistent lighting periods. Overfeeding can have negative impacts too. Timers and feeders alleviate these risks. Air pump Many mechanical filters need an air pump to work. If you use other types of filtration and only want to keep the oxygen levels up, an air stone may be enough. Air stone An air stone will help you keep the oxygen levels up. If you have a filter with an air pump, an air stone is normally not necessary. Algae scraper The algae scraper will help you remove algae from the aquarium glass. Aquarium Despite popular belief, a big aquarium is easier to care for than a small one. Beginner aquarists should therefore ideally stay away from tiny aquariums. Aquarium stand A filled aquarium is really heavy and your normal furniture may not be able to cope with the weight. Background A nice aquarium background will hide unsightly cable cords and make the aquarium look better. Buckets You will need one bucket to catch the dirty water in during water changes and another one in which you prepare the replacement water. Dechlorinator (water treatment) A dechlorinator capable of removing chloramines is necessary if you use chlorinated tap water and do not wish to spend a lot of time letting replacement water rest before you can use it. Food If you start out with easy and durable beginner species, a high-quality flake food for omnivores will work well. You can then deepen you knowledge by reading the food articles here at AC Tropical Fish. Heater, thermostat and thermometer A heater will help you keep the water temperature up. Even if your heater comes with a thermostat, you should always get an independent thermometer and place it in the opposite corner of the aquarium.

Filter / filters Three types of filtration can take place in the aquarium: mechanical, biological and chemical. A strongly suggest you read one of the beginner articles about filtration here at AC Tropical Fish before you set up the aquarium since this will prevent you from buying expensive filter systems that you may not really need. Learning more about cycling and of how biological filtration works will also prevent the dreaded New Aquarium Sudden Fish Death. Lid If you are a beginner aquarist, a lid where the lights are included is the easiest solution. Siphon Using a siphon is one of the easiest ways of carrying out water changes. A siphon can also be attached to a head and used for vacuuming the substrate. Substrate The substrate will soon be colonized by beneficial bacteria that help you keep the water quality up. It will also make it possible for you to plant plants and many fish species appreciates aquariums with substrate since it makes them feel more at home. Test kit A basic test kit will allow you to monitor the levels of ammonia/ammonium, nitrite and nitrate in your aquarium. You can also use your test kit to check the pH-value and water hardness, but these factors are not as important if you go for sturdy and adaptable fish species. Timer Fish appreciates a steady rhythm of day and light and connecting your lights to a time is therefore recommended. Setting up the aquarium Before you acquire any fish you should set up the aquarium and make sure that everything works according to plan. Once you have filled the aquarium with gravel, water and plants and installed all the gadgets, you should keep it running for at least 24 hours before you add anything else to the water. You can read more about how to set up the aquarium in the e-book named Tropical Fish that you can download for free by going to the e-book section in the forum at AC Tropical fish. Cycling Many aquarists skip this stage, but if you devote some time to cycling your aquarium you increase your chances of keeping your fish alive dramatically. During cycling, colonies of beneficial bacteria will grow strong enough to handle a lot of the nitrogenous waste that your fish will produce. If you simply toss all your fish into a non-cycled aquarium, the levels of nitrogenous waste will sky rocket and this will injure as well as potentially kill your fish. Cycling the aquarium is certainly not difficult, but it will take at least two weeks. There are several ways of cycling an aquarium and you can learn more about the details by reading the cycling articles in the abovementioned e-book. One easy method is to purchase a group of small and sturdy schooling fish from the fish store (e.g. Danios) together with a bottle of nitrogen converting bacteria. Add the fishes and the bacteria to the aquarium and make sure that there are suitable media for the bacteria to colonize in the aquarium, e.g. bushy plant leaves, gravel and a sponge filter that you never wash with detergents or hot water. Use your test kit and regularly check the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. They will spike after a while, but sooner or later they will hopefully decrease down to lower levels again. You need to carry out frequent water changes during the cycling process and only give your fish small servings of food. Do not loose heart if the water gets a little foggy during cycling; it is perfectly normal. When your aquarium is stable, gradually start adding more and more fish. Do not overload the bacteria by suddenly tossing ten big fishes into the aquarium. Once you have added a few fishes, wait a few weeks before adding any new ones. Yes, it is boring to wait, but your fish will stay happy and healthy and you being patient will prevent a lot of potential problems. Daily maintenance Feed your fish 2-3 times a day. Remove uneaten food, dead fish and plant debris. Check the thermometer and make sure that temperature is stable.

Weekly maintenance For a basic freshwater set up with sturdy tropical fish species, changing roughly 25% of the water each week is recommended. The replacement water must not be cold, since this will chock your fish. If you use chlorinated tap water, use a dechlorinator to treat the water before you pour it into your aquarium. Changing the water can be a little messy and take a long time at first, but you will soon get the hang of it. Keep the glass clean and remove any algae from it. Vacuum the substrate. Less frequently Once in a while, the filter media in your mechanical filter (if you use one) will need to be washed. Only remove half of the filter media since this will allow the remaining population of bacteria to continue their work. They will also be able to repopulate the other half of the filter media if something goes bad during cleaning. Rinse out the filter media in water of the same (or slightly lower) temperature as the water in the aquarium. Hot water will instantly kill the bacteria. Never use any type of detergent. Aquarium safety Unplug the electrical equipment before you carry out maintenance work. The combination of water and electricity is dangerous, and unplugging your equipment is therefore recommended. You can also chose install an ELCB (core balance Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker) to make it safer to stick your hands into the water while equipment is still plugged in. It should also be noted that if a running heater is exposed to air during a water change, it can crack and become useless. Unplugging it is therefore a very good idea. Didn't find the info you were looking for? Ask your question in our Aquarium forum ! Our knowledgeable staff usually responds to any question within 24 hours

Why Change It? Even if your water looks clear, stir up the substrate a bit and you'll be shocked at how much detritus (aka: junk) is there. Where did it come from? When fish are fed, particles of food fall to the tank bottom where they decay. Meanwhile the food that is eaten eventually is released back into the water as urine or feces, which also adds to the detritus. In addition to the junk you can see, invisible waste by-products build up in the form of nitrates and phosphates. This puts stress on the fish, making them vulnerable to disease. Elevated nitrates will stunt the growth of young fish, and can interfere with normal reproduction in adult fish. Nitrate also promotes overgrowth of algae. Phosphates have a similar effect. Changing the water is the best way to keep nitrate and phosphate levels low. Wastes aren't the only reason water needs to be changed. Trace elements and minerals in the water are important to the health of your fish, as well as the stability of the water chemistry. Over time they are used up or filtered out. If they aren't replaced, the pH of the water will drop. Furthermore, the lack of trace minerals will adversely affect the vigor and health of the fish. Giving your fish fresh water regularly, is much the same as giving your kids vitamins to keep them strong and healthy. How Often? Water changes should be part of regular aquarium maintenance. The frequency will vary somewhat, depending on many factors. Smaller heavily stocked tanks will require more frequent water changes than larger sparsely stocked aquariums. My recommendation is to change ten to fifteen percent of the water each week. If your tank is heavily stocked, you should bump that up to twenty percent each week. A lightly stocked tank can get by for two weeks, but that should be the maximum length of time between water changes What about topping off? Some people think that if they add water to the tank, it's the same thing as changing the water. That is not the case. Adding water doesn't remove any of the wastes, so don't skimp on the water changes simply because you top off the tank now and then. Water Changing Tips How to go about changing the water warrants an article of its own, complete with photos. In the meantime, here are a few water changing tips to consider.

Age the water Letting the water sit for a day will dissipate dissolved gasses that might otherwise be harmful to the fish. It will also allow the pH to stabilize before being added to the tank. Clean the gravel When siphoning off the old water, vacuum the substrate at the same time. That way you get rid of some of the detritus that is building up.

Don't touch the filter Cleaning the gravel disturbs the beneficial bacterial colonies. The filter is the other location where these colonies grow. It's not wise to disrupt both locations at the same time. Time your filter cleaning so it occurs between water change days. Heat can become a problem if it is markedly elevated for a considerable period of time (which might be possible during a prolonged hot spell). The Angelfish, Guppies, Mollies, and Silver Shark, will have absolutely no problems with the current temp of 27.3 C. The Clown Loach enjoys water as warm as 30 degrees C (86 F), and is probably thanking the weather person for the lovely warm water. As long as the water temperature does not remain above 30 C (86 F) for weeks on end, you need not be concerned. However, as the temperature rises, the oxygen saturation in the water tends to fall. If you have a good filtration system, odds are you don't have a problem. Never the less, it won't hurt to increase the aeration to assure proper levels of oxygen. I'd also perform water changes more often, using water that is a degree or two cooler than the tank water. That will serve to keep the water temperature down, and maintain adequate oxygen levels for your fish. In the event of a lengthy heat wave, you might have to take steps to cool the water. Here are some suggestions: Keep the aquarium lights turned off. Make sure the room does not receive direct sunlight. Remove the hood and lid from the tank (use caution if your fish are jumpers) Place a fan so that it blows directly across the water. Float icepacks in the water. Considerable debate exists over the use of a small icepack inside a box, power, or canister filter. Certainly an icepack will cool the water, however the drastic temperature difference traumatizes the bacterial colonies growing on the filter media. Personally I would not recommend ice or cold water packs inside a filter. An alternative for aquariums with a canister filter is to lengthen the outlet tube enough so that it may be placed in an bucket full of ice. The water will be chilled after it leaves the pump, which will not affect the bacteria on the filter media. Regardless of which method you use, be sure to keep the rate of reduction slow - about one degree Celsius (2 degrees F) every eight to ten hours. Remember, rapid water changes are harmful to your fish. Good luck with your fish, I hope it cools off soon. Drop by the forum and let us know how things are progressing.

Typically people are cautioned about matching the water temperature when taking a new fish home. Truth be told, temperature differences are often not as dangerous to the fish as a significantly different pH. The mysterious death of a newly purchased fish is many times due to a pH problem. Know pH Before Buying

Although some shops are now providing pH information, many do not unless requested. Before making your purchase, ask for the pH reading on the water from the tank your fish has been living in. Good shops can and will quote that information. Make sure you also know the pH of the water in your tank at home. Odds are the two values are close, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. If the pH at home is significantly different than the water at the shop, you have an important decision to make. Either you should not get the fish, or you need to alter your water so that it's reasonably close to the water the fish comes from. How Much Difference Is Significant? If the difference between your water and the store water is less than five tenths, you need not be concerned with altering the pH of your tank. However, a few fish are sensitive to even small pH changes, so do your homework before making your purchase. Neon Tetras are one fish that are particularly sensitive to pH changes. Take care when acclimating them to a new tank and watch closely for signs of stress. When the pH difference between the store water and your home water is between five tenths and a whole number, you need to give the matter some thought. Some fish will do just fine, while others will react negatively to such a pH change. Research the needs of the fish you plan to purchase, then consider what the pH of your water source for your home aquairum, and consult with an expert to determine the best course of action. I will be happy to answer questions about specific situations, and any reputable pet shop will do likewise. If the difference between your water and the store water is more than a whole point (i.e.: your water is 6.8 and the store is 8.0), I strongly advise against purchasing fish until you've adjusted the pH of your water. The shock of such a significant pH change could cause illness or even the death of your fish. Should You Alter pH? The million-dollar question is - should you alter the pH of your water? A general rule of thumb is whenever possible leave well enough alone, as it's not easy to change the pH and keep it that way. It is more important to have a stable pH than one that perfectly matches the textbook requirements for your fish. However, there are cases when your water does need to be treated to alter the pH. Always proceed cautiously when altering pH. Here are the basics about altering pH. How to Alter pH I do not advise the use of commercial pH up or down preparations to alter pH on an ongoing basis. They are not designed to make a long-term change. Instead, look at methods that are don't require frequent adding of chemicals to maintain the desired pH. When altering pH, other factors, such as buffering capacity, should also be considered. Due to the complexity of altering pH I will not go into more detailed about methods for altering pH. Instead I will suggest the basic methods. Lowering pH Lowering pH is not as easy as raising it. Filtering over peat moss is the method of choice. It is continuous and relatively easy to do. The use of bogwood to decorate the aquarium has a similar effect, although it's not as easy to maintain as using peat moss in the filter.

Another method to lower pH is to mix distilled or RO (reverse-osmosis) water with your tap water to reduce both the hardness and pH. This is effective for smaller pH changes, and you must keep in mind that every time you perform a water change, or top off the tank you'll have to mix water. In other words, if you need to greatly lower the pH of your water, think twice it is going to be an uphill battle. The addition of CO2 will lower the pH of your water. If you have live plants, the use of CO2 is an excellent option. There are several means of adding CO2, from high-end commercial equipment to simple do-it-yourself systems. Raising pH It's not often that the pH must be increased, as most water sources are already slightly to moderately alkaline. In the event your water is acidic, and you want to keep fish that originate from alkaline water (as is the case for certain Cichlids). Filtering the water over crushed coral is the method of choice for raising the pH. The use of limestone rocks in decorating the tank will also raise the pH, but keep in mind that you will not be able to adjust it readily. The addition of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) will also raise the pH and has the added benefit of buffering the water. Keep in mind that this will be an ongoing thing, so you can't add it once and forget about it. Is aquarium water testing really necessary? In a word - yes! What should be tested, and how often, is not as short an answer. In a newly set up aquarium, water testing is critical to avoid fish loss as ammonia and nitrites rapidly rise. In an established tank, water testing is important to ensure the continued health of your fish. Test kits should be considered part of the operating expense associated with keeping an aquarium. If you cannot afford test kits, or feel uncomfortable testing water yourself, check with your fish shop to see what they charge for doing water tests. Some offer one free test each month, or will quote you a flat fee for monthly testing. Compare their charges against the actual cost of test kits. Which Kits? Which aquarium water test kits should you get? In my experience, I've found the following most valuable to fish keepers; ammonia, pH, nitrite, and nitrate. Hardness levels are useful to establish what your levels are, but don't warrant purchasing an entire kit for (unless you have special needs such as a planted tank). Phosphates are worth testing for if you have algae problems. All testing should be recorded in a log or journal so you have a record of what is happening over time. Ammonia Testing for ammonia is a must. Ammonia will be elevated during the start-up cycle in a new tank. However, ammonia can also be elevated in mature tanks if the water is not changed regularly, filters are not kept clean, if the tank is overstocked, or if medication is used that disrupts the biological cycle. In an established tank, an ammonia test should be performed and recorded in a log once a month. Anytime you have sick fish, or a fish death, you should immediately test for ammonia. Any detectable amount of ammonia should be addressed swiftly, as it is extremely toxic to fish.

pH Aside from new tank syndrome, I've found that pH is the most frequent cause of fish stress, which can ultimately lead to fish loss. Unfortunately, it is usually the most overlooked parameter. Fish cannot tolerate sudden changes in pH. Even a change of 0.2 can result in stress or death if it occurs suddenly. Know the pH of your fish shop's water, as well as your own, so you can be acclimate new fish properly. Keep in mind that if you use tap water, it has dissolved gasses as a result of being under pressure. Let the tap water sit overnight before testing the pH. pH can, and will, change with time. Fish and plant waste, water evaporation, topping off water, and water hardness will all contribute to changes in the pH. As a rule of thumb, pH in an established tank should be tested once a month, and any time there is a fish death or illness. Another factor of pH is the buffering capability of your water. If your water pH changes suddenly, or drifts regularly over time, you should check the KH (Carbonate Hardness) of the water. Consult your local fish shop for KH testing, and for buffering compounds to stabilize the pH level. Nitrite During the startup of a new tank, nitrite levels will soar and can stress or kill fish. However, even after an aquarium is initially "cycled", it is not unusual to go through mini-cycles from time to time. For that reason, include nitrite testing as part of your monthly testing routine. Any elevation of nitrite levels is a red flag that indicates a problem brewing in the tank. If a fish is ill, or dies, it's wise to test for nitrite to ensure it is not contributing to the problem. The only way to reduce elevated nitrite levels quickly is via water changes. Nitrates Although nitrates are not as toxic as ammonia or nitrites, they must be monitored to avoid stressing the fish. Nitrates can also be a source of algae problems. Nitrates will rise over time and can only be eliminated via water changes. Monthly tests are important - particularly when breeding fish, as young fish are more sensitive to nitrates than adult fish. Test monthly and keep levels low to ensure a healthy tank. Phosphate Whenever anyone complains that they cannot win the battle against algae, phosphates immediately come to mind. Phosphate serve as a nutrient for algae, and elevated levels will certainly add to your algae woes. Although it's rarely discussed, a leading cause of increased phosphates is dry fish food - particularly overfeeding with lower quality foods that are high in phosphates. If you have algae overgrowth, test for phosphates. There are filtering materials available that remove phosphates.

Here's How: 1. Decide where you are going to place your aquarium. Remember filled tanks are heavy! 2. Measure the area you selected and write it down for reference. 3. Use your measurements and the tank sizes link under Related Features to find the correct size of tank. 4. When selecting a shape, choose short longer shapes over tall thinner shapes. More surface area at the top of the water is better for the fish. 5. Decide if you want glass or acrylic. I recommend glass for beginners. 6. Choose an aquarium over 10 gallons. Mistakes aren't as lethal in a tank with more water. 7. Call several stores and compare the prices for the same brand of aquarium 8. Now go purchase your aquarium and get started on your new hobby. Tips: 1. A filled 20 gallon tank weighs 225 lbs. Use the tank sizes chart below to be sure your stand can support the aquarium you select. 2. For additional info on selecting tanks read the Getting Started feature listed below. 3. o you have a used aquarium that you don't have size information for? Or perhaps you want to know how much your tank will weigh once it's filled with water. If so, this chart should answer you questions. It provides size and weight information for many of the basic aquarium sizes. 4. Basic Aquarium Sizes (US Units of Weight & Measure) 5. Note: Weights are for glass aquariums, acrylic will weigh less What size heater do you need? The answer in these easy steps. Difficulty: Easy Time Required: 10 minutes Here's How: 1. Determine the average temperature of the room where you your tank is kept. 2. Decide the temperature you want to maintain the aquarium water at. This will be based on the kind of fish you keep, however most freshwater fish do well in the 76 to 78 degree range. Check the fish profile library to find temperature requirements for specific fish. 3. Subtract the average room temperature from the temperature you want to maintain the aquarium water at. This is the number of degrees the aquarium must be heated. 4. Take the number from step 3 and use the Heater Guide link under Related Resources to find the wattage you'll need. 5. If the wattage is borderline, choose the next higher size. 6. Run the heater in your aquarium for at least twenty-four hours before adding fish, to be certain it is working properly. Tips: 1. If you can afford it, choose heaters that have a real temperature scale on them. They are easier to adjust. 2. Watch for sales and purchase a spare heater for emergencies. 3. Be sure to buy a thermometer when you select your heater. Selecting a Filter Tip: All tanks need biological and mechanical filtration to maintain a healthy environment. Three Types of Filtration In aquariums there can be three types of filtration processes - biological, chemical, and mechanical. All tanks need at least somem form of biological and mechanical filtration to maintain a healthy environment. It's a good idea to understand the basics of each type of filtration so you can make an informed decision when selecting a filter. Mechanical - Mechanical filtration involves the removal of particles of waste by passing water continuously through foam or other porous material. The filter traps particles of debris, and is periodically cleaned or replaced. Because solid waste is constantly being produced in your tank, a mechanical filter of some type is a must. Chemical - In chemical filtration water is passed though material such as carbon, which removes at least some of the dissolved materials. Toxic metals, ammonia, and even odors can be filtered out chemically. While chemical filtration is not absolutely required, it can be useful combined with other filtration methods. Chemical filtration is particularly helpful when starting a new tank, because it can remove ammonia

Biological - Fish produce wastes which cannot be filtered completely using mechanical or chemical methods. Unless these wastes are removed, over time they will build up to a lethal level. In biological filtration, two types of beneficial bacteria known as "nitrofiers" grow in the tank and convert harmful wastes into something less harmful. All aquariums need to have successful biological filtration in order for the fish to remain healthy.Typically it takes about a month to establish a flourishing biological colony that will effectively filter all the harmful wastes Tip: For the beginner 20-30 gallon tank I recommend a power filter. Basic filter types include: Box filters, Cannister filters (figure 1) Fluidized bed filters Power filters (figure 2) Sponge filters Underground filters (UGF) Wet/Dry filters (figure 3) When making a choice keep in mind that you need to accomplish at least mechanical and biological filtration. For small tanks (ie 10 gallon and under), corner "box" filters that sit inside the tank are generally used. They can provide both mechanical and chemical filtration depending on what you put into them. For mid-size tanks a power filter or UGF is generally used. Power filters can be filled with materials that provide both chemical and mechanical filtration. UGF filters provide mechanical and biological filtration, however they can be more prone to unseen problems (ie: blockages, loss of bacterial colonies). For that reason I personally recommend power filters over UGF's for beginners. For larger tanks (50 gallon and up), cannister filters are often used. They can provide all three types of filtration, depending on what is put in the cannister. Tip: Flow rates are good to consider Flow Rates One factor not often mentioned, but which does impact the success of your filtration system is the rate at which water flows through it. The rule of thumb is to run all the water in your tank through the filter at least four times each hour. That makes it pretty easy to calculate what you need. When it's borderline, always move to a higher flow rate. So if you have a thirty gallon tank and the shop only has power filters rated at 100 or 150 gallons per hour, you should purchase the larger one. Tip: Combine a sponge with your filtration unit Box and Power filters don't support biological filtration as naturally as other filtration types. One way of enhancing them is to add sponges, which will provide more space for the beneficial bacteria to grow. Round or square sponges are made to fit the intake tubes of a power filer, or attach to an airline. Small star shaped sponges are made for placing inside the box, and do an excellent job of supporting biological filtration. You should be able to find both of these at a pet shop. Remember... these will need to be cleaned from time to time. Tip: Whenever possible get filtration media in separate packages. We have learned that it's cheaper to purchase virtually anything in bulk. But when it comes to activated carbon or other absorptive filtration media, it's best to get it in smaller quantities. Better yet are individually sealed units that aren't opened until they are used. The reason is that these materials begin absorbing odors and moisture from the air as soon as they are opened. If you buy a large volume, the material that isn't used will begin to deteriorate once the package is opened. If you do buy in bulk, seal the unused portions in airtight containers to preserve it. Before buying a new aquarium consider the needs of the fish that will live it, the care the aquarium will require, and the location where it will be kept. Aquariums should be purchased locally, as shipping and insurance costs negate the benefits of mail orders. That doesn't mean you have to accept the sticker price. Most shop owners will entertain reasonable offers from serious customers. Acrylic or Glass Acrylic aquariums are very lightweight with smooth corners that do not chip. Acrylic also offers a less distorted view than glass. On the down side acrylic requires a stand with support beneath the entire length of the bottom, and it is easily scratched. Glass is easy to clean because it does not scratch readily, and requires support only along the outside edges of the tank. On the down side, glass is heavier and the edges can chip.

Size The size of the tank dictates the number of fish that may safely be kept in it. A general rule of thumb is one inch of fish per net gallon of water. Thicker bodied fish require more space than slim bodied fish. Generally it's best to go with as large a tank as space and funds allow. Beginners should avoid tanks under 20 gallons until becoming more familiar with the pitfalls of the startup cycle, water chemistry, and fish care. Errors made in larger tanks are less likely to be lethal. Aquariums Under 15 gallons Aquariums 15 Gallons and Larger Aquarium Sizes and Weights Shape Not only the size, but the shape of the tank also affects the number of fish it will support. Most of the oxygen enters the water through the surface, so larger surface areas result in more oxygen entering the water. Avoid tall thin tanks, and opt for longer ones. The extra length will also give the fish more room to swim than in a tall aquarium. Why Aquarium Tank Width Matters Combination Packages Many aquariums are now packaged with filters, lights, and heaters. Combo systems like the Eclipse are excellent, and are well worth the money. Package deals that simply combine separate products are a mixed bag. Sometimes items that are not needed, or are of inferior quality, are included. On the other hand, some are a good bargain. Before choosing one, decide what you need and price the items separately. Mini Aquariums Stands Aquariums are heavy once they are filled with water. Before you purchase one, make sure you know where you will place it. A filled 20-gallon glass tank will weight about 225 pounds. Generally aquariums 15 gallons and under can be placed on desks or other sturdy furniture you already have around the house. It is wise to consider purchasing a stand for aquariums 20 gallons or larger. Stands are available in a variety of colors and materials, from wood to metal. John Kahl, an experienced fish owner and member of the the Cleveland Aquarium Society (CAS) and Great Lakes Cichlid Society (GLCS), has excellent advice about the importance of properly acclimating aquarium fish. Thanks for sharing, John! No Dumping, Please! Many times people complain about fish dying shortly after they bring them home from the fish store, and many stores get a bad rap that they don't deserve because these budding aquarists don't know how to properly acclimate aquarium fish to their home aquariums. Most people just float the bag in the tank to equalize the temperature and then dump the fish, water and all, into their tanks. Not only is this not the way to do it, but dumping the water into your tank is just begging for diseases and parasites that live at the fish store, with all the fish packed into the dealer's tanks, to take up residence in your beautiful community tank at home. All new fish being put into a community tank should be quarantined for two weeks, at least, but that is a topic for another sticky. If you don't have extra tanks to quarantine in, you must be very observant of the dealer's tanks and the conditions therein. If there are sick fish, dead fish or ich on ANY of the fish in his tanks, do not buy fish there and put them into your community tank. They MUST be quarantined to protect your little beauties at home. More Than Floating OK, on to acclimating the proper way. The first thing you do is take off the rubber band and open the bag. Place it in the tank so the water supports it. Next roll the open top of the bag down four or five turns so it creates a ring of air trapped in the rolls of the plastic bag. Now the bag will float on its' own without tipping over. If it is still unstable, a couple more rolls might be needed.

Now, while the temperature is equalizing, you need to test the pH of the water in the bag. That's right, test the waterr in the bag. You need to know how much different the pet shop water pH is than the pH of your home tank water. If you don't know the pH of your tank water, now is the time to test it. If the two pH's are very close (within one or two tenths) this will only take about an hour. If the pH's are off by more than .5 up to 1 or even 1.5, this will take longer. Remember, you are giving your fish the best chance of survival in your tank. You could even drop a few crystals of ammo-lock into the bag to absorb any excess ammonia if it was a long trip from the fish store. Why Does pH Matter? OK, let's say that the difference in your pH to the bag pH is .8. Doesn't seem like much, does it? Well, it is! As little as a .5 difference, can and will send your fish into pH shock. This is something they may recover from, or may not, depending on the severity of the difference in pH's. The bigger the difference, the more chance of your new fish dying from it. More new fish have been killed by pH shock than from any other problem after adding them to a tank. Be Patient Now to the procedure for acclimatizing. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup dip 1/2 cup of tank water from the tank and add it to the bag. Now wait 15 minutes and do it again. With a .8 difference like the one we mentioned previously, you will need to do this every 15 minutes for at least TWO HOURS. That is eight times before you net them out and release them in the community tank. This assures that the water is very slowly changed from their bag pH to your tank pH without any abrupt shock to their little fishy systems. With a difference of less than .4 you can drop the time to one hour, but with a larger difference, like 1.0 or larger, you will need to increase the time to 3 hours or longer and maybe even use a 1/4 cup measuring device to add less water each time for a longer period. I have taken up to 4 hours acclimating a very expensive, delicate fish to my quarantine tank. Discus are a prime example of a fish that needs a long acclimatizing period even though the bag water may be close to your tank water. This will give your new fish the best chance for survival in your tank, although it will not protect your other fish from any diseases or parasites that the new fish may be carrying. Remember, temperature is the least of your worries when acclimatizing a new fish. Also remember, your new fish's life is in your hands and he is depending on you to make the right decisions. Good luck, John othing is more exciting than adding fish to a newly set up aquarium. However, the choices you make now will have big impact on your success or failure. Unfortunately many new fish owners make the wrong choices, lose some or all of their fish right off the bat, and give up on fish keeping. That doesn't have to happen to you. The two biggest errors made when stocking a new aquarium are adding too many fish at a time and choosing the wrong fish. Tip the scales in your favor by following these basic, but important, steps. How Many Fish? When you are standing there drooling over all the beautiful fish at the pet shop, remember one word moderation. In most cases only two or three fish should be introduced to a tank initially. Once the nitrogen cycle is established and the tank is stable, additional fish can be added.

However, the same rules apply when adding the next round of fish. Moderation, moderation, moderation. Add only a few at a time. If there is nothing else you remember when adding new fish, its moderation. Factors in Choosing Fish Fish owners tend to go for fish with the most physical appeal. Not that pretty fish are always poor beginner choices; but there are other important factors to consider. A good beginner fish should have these qualities: Tolerate a variety of water conditions, particularly conditions during start up Accept a variety of foods, and are easy to feed Will not reach grow to be overly large Are not aggressive Are compatible with a variety of other fish (unless you want a single species tank) Small schooling fish are generally good first fish, but take care to not add an entire school at once if the tank is brand new. If you want more than one species, don't start them all at the same time. Instead build one school up before starting the next. Tetras are one schooling fish to avoid in a new tank. Most are more sensitive to water conditions than other fish, and often will not survive the initial start-up cycle. Its generally best to wait until the tank is bit more mature before adding Tetras. Good First Fish List Barbs Cherry, Gold, Rosy, Ruby or Purple, and Tico Barbs are good. Avoid Tinfoil and Spanner Barbs due to size and Tiger Barbs because they tend to nip and be quarrelsome. Danios Zebra, Leopard, and Pearl Danios are good. Avoid Giant Danios, due to their size. Rasboras Harlequins and Scissortails are good choices. Catfish Bronze or Gold Corys, Spotted Cory, Bandit Cory, and Panda Cory, are good. Avoid Plecos unless you have a large tank or have a local pet shop that will take them back when they get too large for your tank. Rainbowfish Boesmans, Neon, and Celebes are all good. White Cloud Mountain Minnows Although the list seems small, there is quite a variety to choose from. Once your tank matures, you can branch out into other species of fish. Wondering why your favorite fish isn't on the good first fish list? Heres why some popular fish are absent from the list. Catfish - Many catfish are sensitive to the start-up cycle, or grow too large to be good first fish. For example, the common Pleco is a hardy fish, but it gets very large. The Otocinlus is small, but very sensitive to toxins that are present in a newly started tank. Goldfish - Goldfish are cold water fish that produce a lot of waste, which means they require a larger tank all to themselves. The proverbial goldfish bowl really isn't an idea home for the goldfish. If you want a goldfish, give it a nice roomy tank with only goldfish in it. Live Bearing Fish - If you have children, you may be tempted to get live bearing fish. Because they require special conditions (most notably salt in the water), and are more susceptible to disease, they are not ideal first fish. If you do opt for live bearing fish, choose one species only. Select your fish very carefully at the pet store and provide them with the appropriate care and habitat for that species. At the Fish Shop Now that you've decided on the species of fish, there is one more important step choosing healthy fish. When you go to the shop don't take just any old fish. Look them over carefully. Avoid fish with wounds or nipped fins as they are more susceptible to disease. Check the eyes. Cloudy eyes are a sign of poor water conditions and or disease. Don't get fish with sunken bellies, as they have been underfed or may be suffering from disease.

Making good first fish choices can make all the difference in your new tank. Still have problems or questions? Most items are covered here on the site, but if you can't find an answer, e-mail me. It's sad but true -- not every fish is in perfect health. Here's how to pick the best of the bunch. Difficulty: Average Time Required: 20 minutes Here's How: 1. Look at the top and sides of the tanks. If most are encrusted with residue, look for another shop entirely. 2. Look for clear water. If it's discolored, avoid that tank. If the water in most tanks is discolored, look for another shop. 3. Scan a half dozen tanks to see if any fish are sick or have died. If you see more than one sick or dead fish, find another shop. 4. Avoid tanks with decaying plants, as the water chemistry is questionable. 5. Do not buy fish that just arrived in the shop. They are stressed from travel, and might be carrying disease. 6. Avoid fish with cloudy eyes, torn or clamped fins, and spots or sores on their body. 7. Avoid fish that are sluggish or appear to be shivering. 8. Look at all the fish in the tank. If any appear sick, don't buy a fish from that tank. 9. Choose an active, alert fish. Take him home and enjoy your new pet. Tips: 1. Ask the shop about their fish guarantee. Good shops will replace fish that die within the first day or two. 2. Quarantine new fish in a separate tank for three days before moving them to the regular tank. 20 minutes is all it takes to safely acclimate fish to your aquarium. Difficulty: Easy Time Required: 20 minutes Here's How: 1. Test the pH, and chlorine levels before adding fish to a new tank. Chlorine must be zero, and pH close to that of the pet shop. Verify that the water temperature is at the proper level. 2. Turn the light off in the aquarium to reduce stress. 3. Lift the lid and place the sealed bag containing the fish in the water so it floats. 4. Let the bag float for ten minutes, then open the top of the bag. 5. Using the measuring cup, place one cup of tank water into the bag. 6. Close the bag and allow it to float for another five minutes. 7. Repeat steps five and six once. For sensitive fish such as neon tetras repeat two or three times. 8. Place the small net into the bag, lift the fish out, and quickly transfer it to the aquarium. 9. Discard the bag of water in the sink (never in the aquarium). 10. Leave the light off for several hours to allow the fish to adjust to the new setting. Tips: 1. If you only have a large net, hold the net over a bucket and gently pour the contents of the bag into it. Then quickly transfer the fish from the net to the tank. 2. If there are already other fish in your aquarium place the new fish in a separate aquarium for several days and observe for disease. 3. Brine shrimp nets are an excellent choice to transfer fish with. What You Need measuring cup small soft net Did you know that new gravel must be washed before putting it into the aquarium? Don't worry, it only takes a few simple steps. Here's what you need to know. Difficulty: Easy Time Required: 30 minutes Here's How: 1. Purchase enough gravel to cover the aquarium bottom approximately three inches deep.

2. 3. 4.

5. 6.

If you don't already have one, purchase a 5 gallon bucket and label it for aquarium use only. Aquarium buckets should never have soap in them. Place a large clean sieve, at least 6 inches across, over the bucket. Fill the sieve half full of gravel. Pour water over the gravel in the sieve, while gently shaking it. Rinsing the gravel over the bucket rather than over a drain, allows gravel that slips through the sieve to be caught instead of going down the drain. Continue pouring water over the gravel until the water runs clear. Several washings are usually required. Once the water runs clear, the gravel is ready to be used. It may be placed directly into the tank or in a clean bucket or container. Repeat steps three through five until you have washed enough gravel to fill the aquarium three inches deep.

Tips: 1. A rule of thumb for the amount of gravel to use is one pound of gravel per each gallon of water. 2. Old buckets may be used if they are thoroughly cleaned with bleach, rinsed well, and allowed to air dry. What You Need 6" or larger sieve 5 gallon bucket Quick and easy steps to safely fill your new aquarium with water. Difficulty: Average Time Required: 45 minutes Here's How: 1. Purchase a bottle of aquarium water conditioner. You do not need cycle or other bacterial starter products. 2. Purchase a bucket and label for aquarium use only. Aquarium buckets should never have soap in them. 3. Fill the bottom of the tank with washed gravel to a depth of three inches. 4. Lay a clean plate on top of the gravel. Be sure there is no soap residue on the plate. If unsure, soak it for a five minutes in a 10% bleach solution, rinse thoroughly with running water, then let it air dry before use. 5. Let cold water run from the tap for a few minutes to flush any minerals or residue from the lines. 6. Fill a clean bucket approximately two thirds to three fourths full with water. 7. Slowly pour the water from the bucket onto the plate in the aquarium. 8. Repeat steps six and seven until the tank is half filled with water. 9. Add plants and and other decorations. 10. Install the heater and filter, but do not plug them into the electrical outlet yet. 11. Repeat steps six and seven until the aquarium is completely filled with water. 12. Remove the plate and add water conditioner according to package instructions. 13. Start the filter and heater, and let the aquarium run for at least twenty four hours before adding fish. Tips: 1. Old buckets may be used if they are thoroughly cleaned with bleach, rinsed well, and allowed to air dry. 2. Fill your buckets only as full as you can comfortably carry and pour them. What You Need water conditioner clean bucket clean plate 20 minutes is all it takes to safely acclimate fish to your aquarium. Difficulty: Easy Time Required: 20 minutes Here's How: 1. Test the pH, and chlorine levels before adding fish to a new tank. Chlorine must be zero, and pH close to that of the pet shop. Verify that the water temperature is at the proper level. 2. Turn the light off in the aquarium to reduce stress. 3. Lift the lid and place the sealed bag containing the fish in the water so it floats. 4. Let the bag float for ten minutes, then open the top of the bag. 5. Using the measuring cup, place one cup of tank water into the bag. 6. Close the bag and allow it to float for another five minutes.

7. 8. 9. 10. Tips: 1.

Repeat steps five and six once. For sensitive fish such as neon tetras repeat two or three times. Place the small net into the bag, lift the fish out, and quickly transfer it to the aquarium. Discard the bag of water in the sink (never in the aquarium). Leave the light off for several hours to allow the fish to adjust to the new setting.

If you only have a large net, hold the net over a bucket and gently pour the contents of the bag into it. Then quickly transfer the fish from the net to the tank. 2. If there are already other fish in your aquarium place the new fish in a separate aquarium for several days and observe for disease. 3. Brine shrimp nets are an excellent choice to transfer fish with. What You Need measuring cup small soft net here is much to be done when setting up an aquarium for the first time, especially before any fish can be added to the water. It is helpful to know beforehand what types of fish will populate the tank, so that the appropriate equipment and proper size aquarium can be obtained. Aquarium Size and Placement Depending on how many and what size fish are desired, a large aquarium may be required. One should take the time to research the prospective fish and determine how large it gets. Make sure the selected aquarium can properly accommodate the fish, and that the tank will be crowded. Fish with too little space often become aggressive and sickly. Aquariums should be placed in stable, quiet, low-traffic environments. Fish can be easily stressed by excessive noise or movement. For stability, tanks should be positioned in corners or along main walls. This will help if there is ever an earthquake or strong vibrations in the walls or floor. Larger, heavier aquariums should be placed on the ground floor with a suitable foundation for support. Preparing the Aquarium Substrate The choice of substrate will largely be a personal, aesthetic choice. If a planted aquarium is desired, then specialized substrates containing supplemental nutrients and minerals should be considered. Some substrates come prepackaged with beneficial bacteria and certain additives. These substrates do not need to be rinsed. Be sure to carefully read the packaging. All other substrates need to be thoroughly rinsed to prevent the introduction of outside contaminants and to reduce the initial cloudiness of the water when the tank is filled. If the gravel or substrate is not rinsed, the excess dust can cloud the water for several days. If river sand or other natural substrate taken from outside is to be used, then the sand should be boiled first to kill off any foreign bacteria or parasites that may be present. Using the Right Aquarium Equipment for the Job Setting up and properly outfitting an aquarium can be expensive, especially with larger tanks. However, it is definitely worthwhile to purchase better equipment in the beginning. Purchasing cheaper, low-quality equipment will cost far more in the long-run due to breakdowns and malfunctions, as well as a rise in fish mortality. Again, it is useful to know in advance what species of fish are desired for the aquarium. Is the species a warm water or cold water fish? What temperatures do they need to live comfortably? These answers will clearly affect decisions regarding the purchase of an appropriate heater, or possibly even a water chiller. Make sure that if a heater is purchased that it possesses enough wattage per gallon for the selected aquarium. All fish require clean water, and therefore the best possible filter should be purchased. Canister filters and filters with large amounts of biological filtration are excellent choices. The more biological filtration and media at work, the greater the filters ability to reduce ammonia, nit rites, and nitrates in the water. For smaller or delicate planted aquaria, sponge filters hooked up to an air pump or power head are very effective. Planted aquariums and reef tank setups will also need sufficient lighting, which can be another significant expense. Saltwater aquariums require their own specialized equipment. Protein skimmers are the single most necessary item needed to keep a saltwater tank healthy, as they remove excess organic matter from the

water. Saltwater aquarium owners will also require extra power heads, both for circulation of the aquarium, and to pre-mix saltwater in advance of their water changes. Taking the Time to Properly Cycle the Aquarium One of the most important and overlooked steps of setting up an aquarium is cycling the water properly before adding fish. What this means is that nitrogen and ammonia (fish poop) need to be introduced to the water and the necessary bacteria needed to break down those substances have to grow to sufficient numbers. If the bacteria is not present in the water, or if it is present but not properly established, the fish will produce waste and the ammonia given off by that waste will build to toxic levels in the water and kill the fish. Adding several feeder fish after the aquarium has been set up and running for a few days is an effective way to initiate this nitrogen cycle and begin building beneficial bacteria. Feed these fish regularly so that they produce waste. Perform few if any water changes during this time, as you do not want to kill off bacteria colonies. Freshwater aquariums need to cycle a minimum of four to six weeks before additional fish can be added. Using pre-established water, plants, and mature filters and media will help accelerate this process. Make sure to test your water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates before adding any fish. Saltwater aquariums need to be cycled significantly longer, roughly one to three months. Taking the time and effort to properly set up an aquarium will ultimately save time, money, and frustration in the long run. If the right equipment is used and the tank is properly cycled, then future tank inhabitants will be healthier and happier. Tank mate compatibility is crucial to a successful and healthy marine aquarium. Incompatible species will increase stress in the tank which could result in disease and considerable loss. Use the chart below as a guideline when selecting fish and please read our article "Introducing New Fish Into Your Aquarium" before making your fish selection. Remember, no guarantees can be made about the compatibility or incompatibility of any particular species of fish. Also, particular species within a group of fish vary in temperament and may not correspond with the guideline below. Y = Yes, Generally Compatible C = Can co-exist with Caution N = No, Not Compatible Firstly, look for physical characteristics of good health. A healthy fish should have bright body color, not pale or dull. However darker or patchy coloration may be an indicator of stress and not of bad health. Before you buy a fish, find out how it should look under normal conditions. No open sores, boils, ulcers, peeling scales or blemishes. No visible parasites, such as tiny white crystals that look like salt or tiny black nodules that look like blackheads. There are also viruses, like the Lymphocystis (cauliflower-like growths on the edge of fins). Be sure to examine the fish before buying it. Eyes should be clear, not cloudy or popping out of the sockets. Fins are erect, especially the top fin (dorsal). Buckled fins can mean trouble. No ragged, torn or ripped fins. All of them should be intact. Scales are flat and smooth, stomach is well rounded, girth of the entire body is of normal size, not bloated or sunken. Visible fish waste should be dark in color, not pale. You should also examine their behavior! Healthy fish should breathe normally, not guzzling for air or hanging around the top of the tank where its mouth kissing the top of the water. Compare the gill movement of a fish with other fish in the tank. Extremely rapid gill movement may be a sign of stress. The fish should interact well with another fish, as they pass each other, moving out, etc. Healthy fish should swim in a horizontal motion (not with its head up or down with a few exceptions) throughout the aquarium---not just creeping around the corners or hiding all the time. Dont p ick a fish that allows itself to be bullied or likes to bully others! Spend some time watching the fish you aree interested in buying maybe a good advice. Sometimes yo willl see things you did not notice right away. Watch how it behaves for a while. Only buy fish that eat well! If possible watch them being fed, as this is very important. You wont have a wonderfully beautiful fish that only lasts a day, right? It would be wise too to check fish prices. Unusually cheap price should be questioned, as there are some dangerous yet awfully cheap methods to caught fish today, like using cyanide and drugs. Cheap prices dont have to mean poor quality. And make sure that the fish be caught with two nets. Thats the best, since using one net will usually only result in a crazy chase around the tank, making the fish extremely stressed.

FRESHWATER FISH COMPATIBILITY CHART

SALTWATER FISH COMPATIBILITY CHART

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