Our Guide to Keeping Tropical Fish – Part One

There are some really important factors, which need to be thought about before we get bogged down in details.

Who is the aquarium for?

Is it for the whole family, just the kids, the professional or maybe a gift to yourself?

Who the aquarium is for can have an effect on how you would like the tank to look. E.g. Bright and colourful for the kids. Maybe traditional and natural looking. Or alternatively cutting edge, a real talking point, but still functional.

Not only will the overall effect of the aquarium vary depending on who it is aimed at. Similarly the size of the aquarium varies as well. If the tank is being consider for children, then it might be required to fit within a limited space, such as a bedroom. So a smaller tank may be more suitable. However if the aquarium is something which the whole family intend to be evolved, a larger aquarium with cabinet may be better suited.

Once we’ve worked out who the aquarium is aimed at. We can start to think about which species of fish would be best suited. “Wait, ” I hear you cry, “we’re talking about fish already.” It’s important to bear in mind, that as well as the aquarium fitting your needs and requirements, it has to fit the needs and requirements of the fish as well. No point buying a tiny tank and then realising the fish you really want will outgrow it in a month!

There are thousands of species of fish out there, some perfect for your ideal tank and some not so perfect. The main points of consideration should be:

• Size of the fish; Fish like any animal need space to move around and carry out their natural behaviour.
• The total number of fish;

The number of litres that your aquarium holds will affect the overall number of fish which can be housed within it. For example, a 30 litre aquarium can hold 10 small fish which grow to no more than 1.5” e.g. neon tetras. This means keeping fish, which grow
larger, would result in having less individuals in the aquarium.

Of course there is one area, we’ve not looked at yet, pricing. In an ideal world money would not be the top concern. However in this world, it’s understandable, that fish keeping has to fit within your budget. In most cases it can, there are a number of different styles and ranges on the market, which cater of most budgets. This is the case for most of the equipment required for keeping fish. Hopefully one of these ranges will tick all the boxes for you and your fish.

Location

When locating your aquarium, bear in mind that even small tanks are very heavy. So if the surface is not a purpose built stand the piece of furniture needs to be very strong and sturdy. Some manufacturers will not cover their aquariums under guarantee unless they are housed on the company’s own purpose built cabinet.

“It’s an old wife’s tale which says fish only grow to the size of the tank”.

Fish are sensitive to vibrations, so try to avoid placing your aquarium on the floor. Never site your aquarium close to or on top of speakers. Ideally try to position your aquarium away from windows and doors as this can lead to problems with temperature changes and problems with algae. Again, aquariums placed in conservatories and very close to radiators can also suffer with problems in relation to temperature change.

With all of these factors taken in to consideration and the aquarium in place, the next item to check is that the aquarium is level. Not only will this show on the water line of the aquarium if it is not, it can also lead to problems later on once the aquarium is up and running.

Installation of equipment and decor.

Once the aquarium is in place and level, it is then time to add your equipment.

Backing paper, if you are planning on using it, now is a great time to add it. It is a lot easier to install while the aquarium is empty than full. Simply cut the backing to fit your aquarium and attach to the outside, most people use tape or self adhesive tape.

Depending on the type of filtration system that has been purchased, is whether the filter will need to be installed before, or after the gravel/sand is in place. An example of this is an under gravel filter. Under gravel filters can only be used with gravel as your substrate and not sand, due to the gravel acting as the filter media, where the bacteria grows and the waste is trapped. They must be in place before the gravel is installed.

Gravel or sand, the choice is up to you, but there are some factors you need to take in to consideration.

Sand particles can lift up with the flow of water. We recommend that aquariums with sand as their substrate, have the filter or filter inlet, positioned higher within the water to prevent sand being lifted into the filter and clogging or wearing the system.

Sand is not always a suitable substrate; planted aquariums generally perform better when gravel is used, as the plants find it difficult to take root and hold their position. A fine gravel is normally better suited for planted aquariums.

Solid waste will generally penetrate gravel easier than sand. It is always advised that a gravel cleaner be used to remove waste particles from a gravel substrate.

Gravel and sand both require rising before being added to the aquarium. The easiest way to do this is by placing it in a bucket (which contains no detergents) and filling the bucket with water. Stir the substrate to displace any dust particles and then drain the water off. It can be worth repeating this process a few times, to ensure the substrate is well rinsed through.

When placing the substrate into the aquarium, do so with care to ensure the aquarium does not become damaged.

Once the gravel is in place, then position your ornaments. Although ornaments are not essential, they can be added at any point, they are helpful for;

  • Hiding equipment, with in the tank such as filters, heaters etc.
  • Allowing the fish to carry out their natural behaviour e.g. hiding from threats.

Always ensure that none of your ornaments could be come displaced or fall. It may be necessary to silicon some natural rocks in place, so they are not moved out of position.

Keep an eye out next week for Part Two!

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