My new Aquarium in which I made many of the common mistakes.
Hello eveybody. As a new fish keeper myself I have asked countless questions and have read countless articles about it and have come across many of the same things over and over again. I am going to put the ten most talked about topics in one place and hope it helps someone not make the same mistakes I have made.
1. One of the most common mistakes in fish keeping is not cycling your tank. You go out get a fish, plop it in some water and call it a day. This common mistake can lead to fish illness and even fish death. Cycling is a process in which good bacteria grow to deal with ammonia, and nitrite in the water. Ammonia comes from fish food and fish waste. You will get it no matter what you do. Cycling your tank takes time. This time can vary based on the size of your tank, whether you have fish already, if you use live bacteria to “jump start” your tank and what you “Feed” your tank with. I am currently cycling my tank with fish and have come to realize how difficult this process is. I would recommend to anyone reading this to do a fishless cycle. There are many good articles detailing a fishless cycle already: http://www.myaquariumclub.com/another-look-at-the-nitrogen-cycle-1005.html and http://www.myaquariumclub.com/the-nitrogen-cycle-for-beginners-358.html. If you just HAVE to have that perfect fish (and I strongly recommend you don’t do this) then you are in for an uphill battle. Daily and I mean that daily partial water changes and daily testing for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are in store for you.
2. The next mistake that I have seen a lot of is overstocking. This means too many fish for too small a space. Lots of people find a million fish they like and want to keep but only have a five gallon tank. Fish need space to swim in to be happy and comfortable. The general rule of thumb is one inch of grown up fish ((They get bigger!)) to 1 gallon of water. Now this is only a loose rule as some fish are much more messy ((Like the common goldfish)) and they need more room. Some fish get aggressive in small spaces and will injure other fish if your tank is too small. Others like to live in large groups of their own kind and will be very unhappy alone or in pairs.
3. Number two leads straight to number three. The fish bowl. We’ve all done it. You win a fish or get one gifted to you and the only spot you have available is the fish bowl or that vase your mother-in-law gave you seven years ago. These items are TOO SMALL for actual fish! The water quickly becomes polluted and as the fish grows they lose the very small bit of swimming room they may have had when they were juveniles. Please get AT LEAST a five gallon tank. Remember bigger in this case is always better!
4. Another common mistakes is equipment. ALL FISH need filtration. Even that little Betta you got in the cup. A lot of beneficial bacteria live in the filter and it adds oxygen to the water which fish need to breathe. Filtration, be a little gentle sponge filter or a turbo boosted “Home Improvement” style filter is needed to get some of the fish waste and gunk out of your tank. A little side note here, DON’T clean your filters under tap water! This water holds chemicals that kill your bacteria. Swish them gently in a bucket of used tank water. When replacing filters ((Also note: you don’t need to do this often, white filters are actually bad as you are replacing all your bacteria with no bacteria)) place the old one in front or behind the new one or cut it up and put it in with your new filter so your tank doesn’t lose all your beneficial bacteria.
5. Now for some more chemistry: Ph. Check your Ph levels once a week and try to avoid using aquarium products like Ph up or Ph down, these are TEMPORARY solutions at best. Most fish can adjust to any stable Ph value, its rapid fluctuations that are truly harmful. If you have low Ph adding crushed coral or shells, limestone works well too, to your tank or to the filter is usually a good idea. If you have high Ph and want to lower it, use some peat in a mesh bag ((Warning this MAY discolour your water)) or a piece of wood can help too. Just remember most fishes will be okay with a strange Ph. If you are changing your PH don’t do it all at once, lower or raise it gradually so your fish are not shocked.
6. This one is an important one.. Most people go to the pet store, see a pretty fish or two, buy it and mesh the fish in with ones they already have. I STRONGLY suggest you research the needs of your fish. They may be pretty and add that perfect splash of colour to your tank but you may wake up to a missing fish or even worse a dead one. All fish live in certain parts of the world for a reason, they have adapted over centuries to live there. Temperature, behaviour, survival instinct, chemical balance all these things are a need to know BEFORE you buy your fish and put them in the tank. Goldfish for example are COLD WATER fishes and can’t survive well in heated water with tropicals. Male bettas are fighting fish, they will nip the fins of other fish when they are elaborate and they generally need a soft gentle filter as their fins slow them down. Angel fish are predatory, they will eat smaller fish and since they are taller than they are long, they prefer a deep tank. All this is important stuff to know.
7. Feeding your fish. Feeding your fish may be more complicated than you know. Lots of people buy flake food and leave it at that. Fish are like people they need variety in their diet. Live food, plant material and protein plus vitamins and minerals are all important. KNOW what your fish eats: is it an herbivore? ((eats nothing but plant material)) Is it a carnivore? ((Eats nothing but meat with very little plants)) Or is it an omnivore? ((Eats both meat and plants)). There is a remarkable range of foods available for fish these days, Live, flakes, pellets, wafers, frozen, freeze dried and “people food” like peas and lettuce. Remember if you feed your fish frozen food, thaw it out first.
8. Seven leads to eight.. Overfeeding. Again a very common mistake and it may take you a couple days or even weeks ((Weeks in my case, I have mollies which are little beggars. Even if they are not hungry they will “Beg” for food then spit it out when I give in to them)) to figure out how much your fishes eat and how much gets wasted. Wasting the food isn’t the problem here, its your money, its that decaying food adds to your bio-load ((what the bacteria can process)). Food decaying on the bottom of your tank can produce excess ammonia and overwhelm your beneficial bacteria.
9. This is a common mistake that I see happen more often than not. Over cleaning. You think you are being a good owner by keeping the tank sparkly clean for your fishes but really what you are doing is scrubbing or sucking up all your bacteria. Filters are supposed to be brown! Never use soaps or detergents on your tank or tank items ((like decorations or gravel)). They carry harmful substances for your fish. You should never have to “break down” a tank. Most literature says to do this once a year, but if you keep up with weekly maintenance you shouldn’t have to dismantle everything and start over. Get a gravel vacuum and use it to suck out any waste hiding in the substrate ((the stuff on the bottom of your tank, gravel, sand, peat, marbles)). Gently swish the filter media (the pad thingy) in OLD TANK WATER, not tap water. You can keep on top of algae but getting a fish that likes to eat it ((Like mollies or plecos.. make sure you have room for them and do your research!)) or by getting a gentle scrub brush or magnetized glass cleaner. Reduce the amount of light your tank gets (Never place your tank in or by a window!) a day and do your partial water changes once or twice a week to get rid of built up nitrAtes. Live plants can help with nitrAte excess but they are not completely needed if you keep up with water changes.
10. Under cleaning. Having a tank comes with responsibility. You are responsible for keeping the fishes environment clean and free of toxins. Do WEEKLY partial (25-50%) water changes and use a gravel vacuum to get left over food. ((Never clean all the gravel or all of the filter at once!)) Test your water weekly for ammonia, nitrite and nitrAte. Ammonia should be zero, nitrite should be zero and NitrAte should be less than 40 ppm. Water from the tap NEEDS to be conditioned to get rid of chlorine and chloramines and heavy metals. Make sure the temperature of the replacement water is the as close to the water in the tank as you can get it.
So that is it, the 10 most common mistakes. There are more to make I am sure, I didn’t cover anything about baby fishes and fish stress or sickness. I didn’t cover the death of a fish and what to do if you have to put a fish out of its misery. Personally I think baby fishes (fry) should come with a how-to-do guide themselves. The best I can say is keep reading.. You’ll never know when you come across the perfect solution that meets your specific needs. This site and many others cover lots of the basics for new beginners! Talk to other people that keep fishes, something they do might help you out. Be wary of generic pet stores as most often then not they are just doing their jobs and trying to sell you stuff. Always err on the side of caution when dealing with chemicals.