Freshwater Aquarium Information – 5 Tips To Avoid Disaster

Posted by on Jun 25, 2010 in PetsNo comments

Home aquarium keeping can be a very satisfying pastime. A well maintained aquarium properly lit can look stunning with crystal clear water, colourful, healthy fish going about their business moving between thriving exotic plants. It’s no wonder that aquariums are common place in dentists and doctors waiting rooms because they are well known to provide stress relief, in general they have a calming effect on people.

On the other hand, if you don’t start out right then you could have the nightmare scenario of dead and dying fish, straggly plants, cloudy water and anything but a joy to behold. This will not happen to you if you follow the guidelines described below.

Do Not Buy A So Called ‘Beginners Tank’

Small tanks, generally 12 to 18 inches across, are often sold as so called ‘beginners tanks’ presumably because they are easy to carry out of the shop! However you need to know that a well maintained home aquarium is a delicately balanced ecological system which can easily become unstable. Small aquariums are well known to be more dificult to maintain because they are not easy to achieve balance in and they go out of balasnce very rapidly. A tank size of around 36″ x 12″ x 18″ should be ideal for a beginner.

Do Not Buy Tank And Fish On the Same Day

This is the worst mistake that beginners make. Before any fish enter your aquarium it needs to have been established for at least a few days, preferable a week to achieve some kind of equilibrium. You should set up your tank with everything in it except for the fish. Leave it like that for a week. You must check the temperature, clarity and condition of the water using test strips for the duration of that week. After you have made sure that everything has stabilised introduce some cheap fish and check on their health over the next few days. Only after they look fine should you go out and buy any more fish.

Choose Your Fish Carefully

It is a mistake to assume that all varieties of fish will live in harmony together in your community tank. You should not leave this to chance. Unfortunately it is generally true to say that if a fish’s mouth is large enough for another fish to enter it then that will happen i.e. it’s going to be eaten! Some species of fish have males that will fight to the death. Males of certain species hound the females endlessly so it is a good idea to have 2 or 3 females to each male. Some fish are surface swimmers while others prefer to stay near the gravel. You should bear in mind that each fish may require different water conditions such as temperature and ph even though this will probably not be a major issue. You should buy lively fish that can dart around the tank, avoid any that look sickly or have split fins. The best way forward is to get advice from a really knowledgeable fish supplier.

Do not overstock your tank

Various ‘rules of thumb’ exist for working out the capacity of your tank:

  • 3 cm of adult fish length per 4 litres of water (i.e., a 6 cm-long fish would need about 8 litres of water).
  • 1 cm of adult fish length per 30 square centimetres of surface area.
  • 1 inch of adult fish length per gallon of water.
  • 1 inch of adult fish length per 12 square inches of surface area.

Do not apply any of these rules too rigorously. Remember that any fish you buy will usually be juveniles that will grow in size and will need more room. It is necessary to take this into account. The best approach to establish maximum fish capacity is to slowly add a few fish over a period of time and monitor water quality.

Check the Water Quality and Change it Regularly

It is important to monitor the water condition regularly as your aquarium can rapidly go out of balance and become poisonous to your fish. You have probably heard of aquarium ‘cycling’. This is what the transistion of fish waste to ammonia then nitrite by bacteria then nitrate by other bacteria is called. In the lakes and streams of the natural world ‘cycling’ works without any need for intervention from outside. Each week, to help it along, you must change at least 25% of the tank water. High levels of nitrate and nitrite, particularly nitrite, will kill your fish so it is very important that you monitor these levels.

So there you have it. If you follow this advice you will start off on the right foot and own an aquarium that will be a stunning addition to your home and that you can be proud of.

John Thomson is an aquarium expert. For more great freshwater aquarium information, visit

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