First we must offer some advice. Many people believe that fish keeping is an easy alternative way to keep pets. This is not the case. Fish keeping can be very expensive and time consuming, so it is important that you take this into consideration. Having said that it can also be one of the most rewarding things you do. If cared for properly your fish can live for years and some species are almost like having a dog in your tank. They are interactive and will be able to recognize you.
The most important thing is to have a plan all set out before you buy your tanks or choose your fish. Do your research, if you want a specific fish, search for that fish’s requirements in a tank so you can set up an environment that is suited to your choice. If you are having trouble deciding what fish you would like, or just don’t know where to start, there are many people on this forum that can help.
If you can only fit a certain size tank, research what fish will be able to live in there comfortably.
So first you must choose your tank. There are various types and sizes, so this is easier said than done. You must also get a stand to put your tank on. A hood is also good to make your tank look better, but it really only has that purpose (to hide the light and tubes/leads from filters). It is entirely your choice to have a hood.
The two types are glass or acrylic. Glass tanks are the most commonly used. They are cheaper, they are hard to scratch, but if scratched it is permanent, it has a higher index of refraction (tank distortion), the tank is heavy, is easily broken and stands only need to support the edges, with minimal base support. Acrylic tanks are used less often but can be used if you can afford to buy one. They are more expensive than glass, they scratch easily but scratches can be buffered out (though not easily), they have a lower index of refraction, they weigh less than a glass tank of the same size, they are harder to break and you will need a special stand to support the entire base.
Once you have chosen the material, there are many different shapes and sizes to choose from. You can get standard rectangle, bow front, tall hexagonal shaped, etc.. depending on what is available where you live.
It is very important to choose a tank your budget and space can fit. Remembering you will need to spend money on other equipment before you are finished.
The next thing you will need to buy is a filter. There are three types of filtration processes, mechanical, chemical and biological.
Mechanical – this is the process that removes most of the waste and debris from your tank. It filters your water through some sort of sponge or porous material, which is regularly cleaned or changed. Because your fish produces waste some sort of mechanical filtration is needed.
Chemical – this is the process that filters your water through some sort of material, such as carbon, to remove some of the dissolved materials, such as ammonia, toxic metals and odors. It is not required, and some fish keepers prefer not to use it at all. Carbon can neutralize the smell in your tank, but sometimes the way to check if something is wrong with your tank is to smell it. Some fish keepers only use carbon to remove medications. It is entirely up to you whether you use it or not.
Biological – this is the process that breaks down the waste material that cannot be filtered. It is explained in the nitrification cycle, but basically your fish produce waste, which develops ammonia (toxic to your fish), then bacteria convert it to nitrite (also toxic), then bacteria convert it to nitrate (less harmful). All tanks need established biological filtration to maintain a healthy tank. It takes about a month (see nitrification cycle).
Common types of filters are: canister filters, sponge filters, wet/dry sump, power or undergravel. It is important to have at least 10 times turnover for some types of fish. If you use a canister you may not need as much. I would suggest searching for the required amount of filtration needed for the fish you are going to keep. Or you can ask here, there are many people that would be able to help you.
A heater is also required for tropical fish. The temperature should be kept at about 78 – 80 F. To choose a heater, you need one that is suitable for your tank size. You should also get a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your tank, so you can adjust accordingly.
Lighting is also a difficult decision. There are plenty of different lighting options depending on what you are keeping in your tank. For instance, are you going to be growing plants? You will need a grow light. If you are going to have a fish only aquarium, standard fluorescent aquarium lighting is all you will need. Again it is important for you to do your research on what you want in your tank and what the requirements are.
Now you get into the fun decorative bit. Choosing what gravel and ornaments you want to keep in your tank. Aquarium gravel is available in many different colours and sizes. Generally if you don’t use an undergravel filter or don’t have a planted tank gravel is used for aesthetic purposes. Using a darker colour generally brings out the colour of your fish, but is purely up to you what gravel you choose for your tank. Personally I use a natural riverbed type of gravel. It is also important that you rinse your gravel thoroughly before you use it in your tank (until the water is as clear as you can get it). It is recommended that you have about 2 – 2.5 inches of gravel in your tank. But if using an undergravel filter you should use the amount recommended for the filter.
Choosing your ornaments is again your personal choice. Depending on what fish you decide to keep, some fish need caves, some fish need limited ornaments because they need more space to swim, so research is important. Some common ornaments include rocks, fake plants, real plants, bits of driftwood, fake wood looking logs, and there are plenty of choices available. If you want to use driftwood in your tank you will need to boil it to rid it of pests. Generally simmer for about 8 hours and let it sit in the hot water overnight. The next day rinse off and soak in water for another day. Sometimes you may need to boil a few times to lower the amount of leaching. Sometimes the wood will leach no matter what you do. And as always, any ornaments you add to your tank will need to be cleaned / rinsed thoroughly.
Once you have chosen and bought your tank, filters, heater, light and ornaments it is time to set up your tank. Make sure your tank will be situated in a place that will not be obtrusive to your environment. Once set up it is very difficult to move your tank, so maybe spend some time moving the stand around to see where the tank will be the most appropriate. Avoid places with direct sunlight as this will encourage algae growth and try to avoid high traffic area’s as the fish may become distressed from people constantly walking past their tank (they see you as a predator).
Once you have chosen a spot check to make sure the power point is unobstructed, ensure the tank is level and evenly supported. Always place a piece of Styrofoam on the stand that covers the whole stand, then put your tank in place on the Styrofoam. Check there is evenly supported and does not wobble. If you are using an undergravel filter put it in place and connect the airline to the uplift tube. Put the washed gravel into your tank. Arrange your ornaments the way you wish. Making sure not to lean anything against the glass. Slowly fill your tank up to 75% full. Set up your filters, heater (on an angle for best heat distribution) and place your thermometer in a place that you will be able to monitor easily. Fill your tank.
Now it is time to cycle your tank. Please refer to nitrification cycle.
Once your tank is cycled you can add your fish. Make sure you acclimatize your fish by floating the sealed bags in your aquarium for about 10 –15 minutes before adding to your aquarium. When setting up a new aquarium only add a few fish initially otherwise they may suffer a mini cycle and they may suffer. Only feed lightly, what they can consume in 3 minutes. Remember to feed your fish, not your tank.
If your tank is established it is strongly recommended you quarantine your new fish before adding to your main tank. Fish from pet stores can be harboring diseases that may be passed on to your other fish.
Observe fish carefully before you purchase them. Avoid buying fish from a tank where other fish are dead or dying or show physical signs of damage or disease. See choosing your fish for further information.
Edited by mrs winchester, 29 December 2007 - 02:48 AM.