Are you thinking about getting your very first fish tank? Beginning aquarists often make mistakes as they work through the learning curve. Here are some tips to help you and your fish stay out of trouble.
1. Don’t understand the differences between freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Freshwater fish and saltwater fish shall not be combined. This may sound ridiculously obvious, but the two types don’t mix and match. Be sure to do your research and figure out if a freshwater aquarium or a saltwater aquarium is more appealing to your lifestyle, aesthetics, time requirements, and budget. Plus, you need to understand the nitrogen cycle and all its stages for freshwater vs. saltwater. Study first; then go shopping for supplies.
2. Have absolutely no patience. Setting up a thriving ecological system takes time and cannot be done in one day. Even God took seven days to create our world, so “Thou shalt have patience”. Following this rule alone will save you many hours of frustration.
3. Purchase a tank that is too small. Smaller tanks are cute, but larger tanks have an easier time stabilizing water parameters by having a larger volume of water. Changes are always occurring in pH, ammonia, or nitrites; they will have a more drastic impact on a smaller volume of water. We recommend starting with a 25 gallon to 50 gallon tank.
4. Don’t add live plants. Live plants are not only pretty to look at and offer fishy hiding places, but they help oxygenate and clean the water. The watery ecosystem in your tank will have an easier time flourishing if you add live plants to the mix.
5. Under-size the filter. A properly sized filter plays a very important role in having a low maintenance aquarium. A poorly sized filter is similar to vacuuming your entire 2-story home with a handheld vacuum cleaner. It will only cause you frustration. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish to save money on a filter. Start off with a mechanical filter that is sized correctly from the start.
6. Add the fish prematurely, and all at once. We know how exciting it can be to purchase a lot of beautiful fish and host your own fish-themed homecoming party. Sadly, your excitement could be a party pooper for the poor fish, who each need time to acclimate. Slow down, friend, and make sure the nitrogen and water parameters have stabilized first. Then, add in one to three fish at a time. Let the nitrogen and water parameters settle down again before adding another couple of fish. Remember to embrace patience throughout this process.
7. Overfeed your fish. Sometimes we think our fish will love food like we do. But it isn’t healthy for fish to eat around the clock. Feeding fish once a day is fine. They aren’t bored, either. Fish can go several days without eating with no ill effects. If ammonia and nitrites are out of whack, withhold food for several days to minimize excess waste until water parameters stabilize.
8. Don’t test or change your water. Don’t ignore your aquarium like you would your toilet. That’s gross! Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should be checked daily during the startup cycle. Why? Because, without doing so, you won’t know when it’s safe to add fish. Plus, regular water changes help remove wastes that build up in the aquarium and is an important task in your maintenance schedule. Fish poop happens, but you don’t want them to be swimming around in it for long. (And while you’re at it, your toilet needs to be cleaned and flushed often, too. Just keep the fish outta there!)
9. Don’t bother to check if your fish are compatible. Do you love your little yellow tang? Well, if you love that little baby and you introduce a moray eel, your yellow fish of joy may become an eel snack. Seriously, do some research about compatibility and water parameter requirements before mixing fish, or you’ll have trouble in the ‘hood.
10. Don’t have a maintenance schedule. “Now, let’s see….when was the last time I changed the water?”…. “Honey, did we feed the fish on Friday, or on Sunday?” To save yourself from forgetting, and to make sure your aquarium continues to thrive, keep a log of all you did during your daily and weekly maintenance. Be sure to include when you changed the water, tested the water, feed the fish, cleaned the filter, and handled any problems that arose. Your fishy friends will thank you!
If you need additional advice about how to start your first, second, or even your tenth aquarium, the staff at Caesar’s Tropical Fish Factory is happy to help. Feel free to come in, ask us your questions, spend some time browsing the store, and have us show you the many supplies we offer that could make your aquarium look terrific. We are located at 1648 Piner Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 and are open 7 days a week. See you soon!