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So You Want to Get a Pet Fish? | Home Fish Aquarium Guide

Home Fish Aquarium Guide

Fishkeeping Information and Resources for the Home Aquarium

Looking for even MORE information on freshwater aquariums?
Try the My Freshwater Aquarium Secrets ebook.

My Freshwater Aquarium Secrets

So You Want to Get a Pet Fish?

Now what?

Do you run out and buy the tank and your favorite looking fish, bring them home, dump some water in the tank, set the fish loose and sit back and watch? Well, no. Not if you want your fish to live happy (longer) lives you don’t.

First of, I should say you’ve taken the right step by starting to read and learn what you may need to do to help your fish get off to a good start in their new (or future) home. When I started my first aquarium there wasn’t much of any information on the internet geared towards beginners with keeping fish and unfortunately the walmart that we bought the tank at didn’t give us much of any guidance either. In fact, they didn’t bat an eye that we kept coming back every few days for fresh fish. At some point you would think that someone would have said something, but being the store it is, we always saw someone different at the pet area and the register.

We quickly got discouraged with our high fish mortality rate and gave up. When we started again with the fish tank 10 years later I resolved to learn what had gone wrong and do it RIGHT. There’s GOT to be some clear steps to follow that will help create a recipe for success with the home aquarium. This site will be the culmination of that research and will help me in future new tank setups (we hope to have a couple of aquariums in the future.) This site hopefully will also help you in your new tank setups.

I think the hardest thing about starting a new tank is really PATIENCE.

Rule number one of having an aquarium is: THOU SHALL NOT BUY FISH AND AQUARIUM AT THE SAME TIME!

I will give a brief overview of what you need on this page, but I will fill in more details on the subpages that you will find listed below. Here are the most important things on my list for a fresh tank setup:

Aquarium (preferably 10 gallons or larger)

Filter system – many times this comes with a new aquarium kit and can take many shapes and sizes.

Fish food – will vary based on what kind of fish you have. You may wait until you get the fish, but it can’t hurt to buy a small container of fish flakes. They are a great standby for many fresh water fish.

Gravel vacuum/siphon – this is a must especially if you have an undergravel filter. Basically, it’s a flexible tube with a larger tube at one end.

Fish net – this is for moving your little guys in and out of the tank and can be handy for removing other items from the tank. (Plants, insects that fall in.)

Cover for your tank – I list this as an essential because I think you will find that most any fish is capable of jumping out.

Thermometer – so you can see the current water temperature. Most species of fish (and even plants) have a specific range of temperatures that they thrive in and it will be important to keep an eye on.

Test kits – Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate test kits are a good basic set to start with, pH is another I would add to the “short list” of tests you want to do even before you add fish.

Bucket – for water changes, large enough to hold at least 20%-40% of your tanks water capacity for convenience in water changes.

Some sort of Rocks, plants, cover for your fish – most fish will be less stressed out if you have some sort of rocks, caves or natural surroundings. Now, I prefer live plants over plastic plants, but that is ultimately up to you. It’s not a necessity to get this in your first trip for supplies.

Optional items:

Light – if you have natural plants this is not as optional. In fact some species of fish would appreciate some light, but others will be just as happy in a dimly lit room.

Timer – cheap timer like you can get at a hardware store – I use this to switch the light on and off with a regular schedule.

Heater – this depends on what kind of fish you keep. Most tropical fish would really appreciate a temperature just a bit above room temperature. So, you PROBABLY want a heater.

Second filter – yes it’s possible to have more than one filter, a second one is certainly a possibility.

Air Pump – if you have an undergravel filter this is more necessary. In fact, I like to use air pumps for air stones to generate a bit more turbulence in the water and essentially improve the dissolved oxygen in the water. (Some suggest this as more of a necessity)

Additional test kits – there are lots of parameters to test the water for, I mentioned the essentials above, but there are others you may be interested in tracking.

On the pages below I’ll go into more detail, but here is the bare minimum that we started our latest tank with:
5 gallon tank (yes I know that’s smaller than 10 gallons – we’ll talk more about that later.), air pump to drive the under gravel filter, substrate (gravel) for the bottom of the tank (covers the under gravel filter), air stone (more bubbles), fish flake food, a cave and rock mountain formation, cover with light (florescent), heater, thermometer and test kits.

We got all of this setup and filled with water and treated it exactly as if it was ready for fish for a good while before we got fish. Why? So the tank could cycle properly (some places call this the new tank break in period). We actually did some things to help it along and more information will be detailed on the page related to the nitrogen cycle. The bottom line is that more fish die due to being put in a fresh brand new tank than any other cause. Mainly because it can take as long as 4 to 6 weeks for the right bacteria to develop and process the toxic wastes that fish produce. When those bacteria are established the more toxic wastes get processed to less harmful substances and your fish are more likely to live a long healthy life.

These toxic substances are EXACTLY what the test kits listed above are about and they are WHY I’ve put them on the list of essentials.

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January 10, 2009 - 3:28 PM