Something’s Fishy

 

Something's Fishy


Congratulations, you’re going to be a fish parent! While your
role may not be as interactive as that of a dog or cat caretaker,
there are some important skills—such as tank set-up and
maintenance—you’ll need to master to ensure a happy, healthy home
for your fish. Fish are fascinating to watch and their delightful
colors and vast varieties make them a great pet for both children
and adults alike. It takes more work than most people realize to
prepare an aquarium and keep this environment clean, healthy and
a place for your fish to thrive.Are you familiar with the image of a single goldfish in a bowl?
That’s a great example of exactly how fish SHOULD NOT be kept.
The ASPCA recommends a 20-gallon-aquarium for beginners. You may
be tempted to get a 10-gallon tank, but please keep in mind that
it will be easier to maintain healthy water conditions with a
larger tank—and your fish will appreciate it, too. The experts at
your aquarium store can help you select fish who will get along
with each other and can thrive in a coldwater tank. There are
several things to remember when selecting a location for the
tank: choose a place that is near your water source which will
make it easier to keep the tank clean, since a 20 gallon aquarium
filled with water and gravel weighs more than 200 pounds. Do not
place the tank in direct sunlight since this makes it harder to
control the temperature and may cause too much algae to grown in
the tank, making it necessary to clean it more often. Your fish
should not be subjected to rapid and/or wide temperature swings,
so take care to keep the tank out of direct, hot sun and away
from heating and cooling vents. Because of the weight of the tank
once filled, make sure you select a location that is sturdy such
as a table or counter.

Once you ’ve chosen the spot for your aquarium, it’s time to
start preparing it for your fish. When you fill your aquarium,
use clean tap water and let it stand for several days to “age”
the water and allow some of the chemicals found in tap water to
evaporate. You can also buy a chemical neutralizer at the pet
supply store which you can add to the water to help ensure the
safety of the water for your fish. Most fish are happiest in
water that has a near-neutral pH level of around 7. Test your
water with a kit from the pet supply store. Some fish require
water that’s more or less acidic or alkaline, so ALWAYS ask
someone at the aquarium shop if you are not sure. They’ll tell
you how to adjust the water in your aquarium to suit the variety
of fish you have chosen. Once your aquarium is set up and
running, you’ll need to remove several gallons of water every
week or two and replace it with clean, aged water. This helps to
remove any chemicals that have built up.

Now that your tank is full of water, it is essential to monitor
and maintain a safe and healthy water temperature of
approximately 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit for your tropical fish. It
may be necessary to purchase an aquarium heater (make sure it’s
the right size for your tank) and a thermometer for the tank.
Once the tank is filled with water—but BEFORE you put the fish
in—put the heater in the tank and plug it in. Start at a low
temperature and gradually increase the setting over a couple of
days.

When the heater keeps the water at the correct temperature,
you’re ready to put your fish in their new home. About a week
after the tank has been set up, start your underwater community
with a few hardy fish, such as platys. These fish will provide
the bacteria needed for a healthy tank. Once they’ve settled in
after a week, add a couple of fish every week or so, making sure
you don’t overcrowd the tank. Start your tank with 3 to 4 small-
or 1 to 2 medium-sized fish. They’ll be in sturdy plastic bags
when you buy them. Simply float these bags in the tank for 15 to
30 minutes, so that the temperature of the water in the bag is
the same as the temperature of the tank. Carefully open the bags
and let your fish swim out on their own. If you want to add more
fish and if your tank can support it, add a couple of fish every
week until the tank is complete. One thing people often do when
setting up an aquarium for the first time, is to put “too many
fish” into the tank all at once. An old rule of thumb to follow
is to have one inch of fish per gallon of water. That means, for
example, you could have 10 one-inch fish in 10-gallon aquarium,
or five two-inch fish in the same size tank.

One of the key elements in maintaining a healthy home for your
fish is to make sure you have one or more filters in the tank to
remove waste and chemicals. No matter what kind of filter you
get, remember to rinse activated charcoal to remove any dust
before placing it in the filter.

Here are the most common kinds of filters:

Box Filter: Shaped like a box, this filter is filled with
activated charcoal and a special fiber. Place it in the corner of
the aquarium or attach it to the inside wall. The box filter is
good for a 10-gallon aquarium, temporary aquarium setup, nursery
tank for baby fish or isolation tank for sick fish. On the plus
side, it’s easy to remove and clean, but doesn’t get many points
in the looks department.

Under gravel filter: This flat plastic “platform” is placed on
the bottom of the aquarium covered with gravel. Water is filtered
through the gravel, under the platform and up through tubes;
bacteria cultures in the gravel then go to work to break down
fish poop. This kind of filter is good for 10- to 20-gallon tanks
if there’s adequate water flow. Since the filter is hidden, it
won’t take away from how good your tank looks, and the waste that
gets trapped in the gravel makes a yummy snack for any plants
rooted there. On the minus side, you’ll need to break down the
aquarium to clean under the platform.

Outside Filter: This filter hangs on the side or back of the
tank. Water is drawn through a tube into a box containing filter
medium and activated charcoal. It works great and is easy to
clean—just make sure you get the right size for your tank.

Decorating your tank:

Fish may not care if their gravel is color-coordinated, but
they’ll greatly appreciate a “hiding” place to chill out. You can
use a clean, cracked upside-down flowerpot or arrange aquarium
rocks into a cave; there’s also a variety of tank décor available
at the pet supply store such as plastic plants that provide great
camouflage, too. The gravel in your aquarium is not just there to
make it pretty; it has a lot of important jobs. It provides a
place to live for the helpful bacteria that treat impurities in
the water. It also offers a place for plants to root. Make sure
you pre-treat your gravel before placing it in your aquarium, by
rinsing it thoroughly with running water to remove dust and small
particles. Use a coarser gravel if you have an underground filter
and finer gravel if you are using an outside filter. If there are
plants in your aquarium, avoid very fine gravel, which may pack
too tightly for roots to grow and spread. You’ll need about one
pound of gravel for every gallon of water. If your aquarium holds
10 gallons, you’ll need 10 pounds of gravel.

Lighting and safety:

You will also need a cover for your aquarium to prevent things
from falling into the tank as well as helping to keep your fish
from jumping out. A light fixture is also necessary to limit
water evaporation, and to help plants grow. Try to use a
fluorescent light fixture rather than an incandescent one which
gives off heat and will make it harder to keep the temperature
constant. Place the light on a 12-hours on and 12-hours off
cycle.

Feeding time:

One of the most enjoyable things about caring for fish is
watching them at feeding time. There are very good commercial
fish foods available, such as dried flakes which provide a
balanced diet, and fresh foods such as live brine shrimp,
bloodworms and tubifex worms which provide variety. If you are
uncertain which is best for the type of fish in your aquarium,
check with your local pet supply store which can provide
information to help you decide which is best for you? Remember
when it comes to fish nutrition: DO NOT OVERFEED! Excess food
will fall to the bottom of the tank and spoil, reducing the water
quality. It is best to feed several small meals daily, just
enough so the fish eat everything before it falls to the bottom.

A regular maintenance routine to keep your fish healthy:

Daily: In addition to turning on and off lights and feeding, you
will need to monitor the water temperature. Coldwater tanks do
not require a heater, but you will want to ensure that the
temperature remains relatively constant. An inexpensive liquid
crystal thermometer that attaches to the outside of tank will
work great. FYI, goldfish can thrive at water temperatures
between 50 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weekly: Every week or two remove several gallons of water from
the tank and replace it with clean, pre-aged water. This will
help remove chemicals that build up in the aquarium and that are
not eliminated by evaporation or filtration. We also recommend
that you test the water quality with a kit from the pet supply
store weekly, and scrape any algae that have built up.

Monthly: Clean the filter or replace the charcoal and filter pads
monthly. And if you have plants, it’s time to prune them.
And one final precaution! Goldfish are beautiful, but they also
tend to be messy, with very hearty appetites. This translates
into a high output of ammonia, so you’ll need to be very careful
about maintaining water quality. That involves frequent water
changes, high-capacity filtration and regular water tests.

 

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