An aquarium adventure should start with gaining a lot of knowledge. Beginning hobbyists are advised to use a freshwater setup. This is because freshwater fish are somewhat more tolerant of adverse environmental changes, which are quite common. Until you have acquired the breeding skills, put more ambitious projects on hold.
Because fish swim, live, eat, and defecate in water, the quality of that water is paramount to their health. Smaller tanks hold only small amounts of it, and therefore encourage rapid fluctuations in quality. Larger tanks tend to be more stable (in terms of maintaining parameters) with greater dilution of contaminants. As a result, the probability of failure is much lower. The best place to start, therefore, is with the largest tank you can afford.
Apart from this, you will need other accessories such as aquarium filters, heaters, conditioners, aquarium plants and many more.
Size and location of the tank
A starter tank should be at least the standard 60 centimeters. Glass aquariums are heavier and you can get them in larger sizes, plus they don’t scratch as easily. Plastic ones cannot structurally handle large amounts of water.
Remember, you can’t just add water and fish like you would if you were cooking soup. You are creating a real, living underwater world. It takes time before the water is ready to introduce fish.
The aquarium and stand should be placed on a strong, stable and level floor. A sheet of Styrofoam should be placed between the aquarium and the stand to compensate for unevenness and distribute the weight of the tank evenly.
The tank should not be exposed to direct sunlight (to prevent excessive algae growth) and stand away from hallways where there is a draft. Make sure you are happy with the location of your tank before you fill it, because once you add water and aquarium accessories, the tank becomes very heavy and therefore dangerous to move.
Once the tank is in place, add gravel (if you are using an undergravel filter, place a filter plate before adding the gravel). The gravel should come from an aquarium store, as those sold in garden stores can give off harmful chemicals. The gravel should be placed in such a way that it falls towards the front (depth in the front approx. 2 cm, and up to 5 cm in the back). This helps to direct pollutants to the front, where they can be cleaned more easily.
Aquarium furniture and plants
You can add aquarium accessories and plants to your tank before or after adding water – at your discretion. It’s usually easier to plant in a dry tank, although it requires some imagination to predict how the plants will look after the aquarium is filled.
Heavier accessories, such as rocks, should not be added until after the tank is filled with water to distribute the load more evenly to the bottom of the tank.
Tap water must be treated before adding it to the tank. It requires treatment because the chlorine in it can be toxic to fish. To avoid mixing gravel, place a clean ice cream container in the tank and pour water into it. It absorbs most of the force of the water and overflows into the tank in a softer stream.
Install and submerge the heating element, then allow it to equilibrate with the water temperature to avoid cracking the glass sleeve. Set the desired temperature (depending on the type of fish) before turning it on. For a typical tropical freshwater tank, a good starting point is around 25°C. Run the filtration system and add a bacteria starter. Never turn on the heater outside of the water as it will be damaged.
The golden rule is to perform a partial water change of 25% of the tank volume every week or every two weeks. The water change should be done along with cleaning the gravel using a gravel trap. However, if you are using an undergravel filter, the gravel substrate should not be disturbed as often.
Next, refill the tank with treated water. This water should come from a cold water tap, not a hot water tap (hot water dissolves heavy metals in the pipes that can harm fish). This water should then be heated with an aquarium heater before adding it to the aquarium to avoid exposing the fish to shock.
Feeding the fish
Feed the fish only as much as they will eat within two minutes. After this time, any lingering food should be removed. As a general rule of thumb, a fish’s stomach size is as large as its eye. Most often fish die from overfeeding, not malnutrition. The uneaten food pollutes the water and creates poor water conditions, thus contributing to disease.
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