Yamato Green Fe
Yamato Green Technical Specifications
Terms & Conditions
Starting a Planted Tank
Plant Nutrients 101
Phophates in the Planted Tank
Fertilizer & the Planted Aquarium
CO2 & the Planted Tank
Safety Around the Aquarium
Cleaning Aquarium Glass
Mysterious Fish Deaths Explained!
New Tank Syndrome
Choosing an Aquatic Heater
Tips for Beginning Fishkeepers
Salt in the Aquarium
Outdoor Patio Tubbing
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
BEGINNER'S TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL FISHKEEPING
By 2manyfish - October 2000
Beginning fishkeepers frequently complain
that they can't seem to keep their fish alive, or that they experience
frequent problems with diseases. There is no magical secret to keeping
healthy, thriving fish. Most fish are quite forgiving of errors and
mistakes. However, there are a few things that you should know to guarantee
a healthy, successful aquarium.
1. Adequate aquarium size. The old adage "buy the largest aquarium
possible," or the largest you can afford is quite accurate advice.
In nature, fish are simply not overcrowded. If you ever watch scenes
in movies where fish are swimming in a river, lake, stream or pond, you
will immediately notice that there really aren't that many fish per gallon
of water. Nature simply doesn't overcrowd her natural aquariums, and
neither should you. An understocked aquarium will always have fewer problems
and remain healthy much easier than an overstocked aquarium. There are
numerous "rules of thumb" to help guide you in stocking an
aquarium. One rule is the 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water guide.
This is a good starting point, but works only with small, slender fish
such as Tetras or Guppys. An 8" large-bodied fish such as an Oscar
or Goldfish produces many times more waste byproducts than eight 1" Guppys.
Yes, I know, there are many fishkeepers who will testify that they knew
someone once who kept a 12" Goldfish in a 10 gallon tank. First,
I truly doubt their story. Second, the Goldfish quite obviously never
had any quality of life. And third, only large daily water changes would
have allowed the fish to live - a lot of extra work for the fishkeeper.
When choosing a tank for size, keep in mind the size of the fish when
they will become adults, and make sure they have plenty of swimming room.
2. Water. With a rare few exceptions, most fish can tolerate water vastly
different from what the books say they require. If you can drink your
tapwater and live, then usually your fish can live in it just fine. There
are many products on the market that claim to adjust the water to the
fish's home waters. These products usually don't mention that they rarely
work with tapwater, but instead work only with distilled water. In other
words, you end up adding chemicals on top of the chemicals already in
your water. This can result in very unstable water. Additionally, the
additives must be replaced with every water change, which quickly becomes
an expensive and messy project. Also frequently overlooked is that many
fish you purchase were bred and kept in local water. For example, Angelfish
in the wild come from soft, acidic water. However, the Angelfish you
purchase in the store may be hundreds of generations away from the wild,
and may have come from locally bred stock that has been adapted to your
local water conditions for dozens of generations. This is particularly
true if you purchase your fish from a local breeder, or acquire them
from a local friend whose fish had fry, and they are trying to get rid
of the excess. It is also wise to choose fish that are well matched to
your water. For example, if you lived in Boise, Idaho and had extremely
hard mineral water pouring from your faucet, you would be wise to not
try to breed Discus. Instead, the ideal fish for you might be African
Cichlids, or perhaps Livebearers, which do well in hard water. Indeed,
Rift Lake Cichlids must have hard, alkaline water, and will die within
hours if placed in soft, acid water.
3. Water conditioning. Almost every municipality processes its water
to kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses that could cause disease in
humans. Most municipal water plants use chlorine, while a few others
add ozone and chloramine to their water. Ozone poses no threat to fish
or humans, and is quickly dissipated after processing. Chlorine and chloramine
pose other problems. These chemicals can harm fish, and can also damage
the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium, and must be removed. Chlorine
can be removed simply by putting the water in a bucket, dropping in an
airstone, and aerating the water overnight. Then, it is safe to add to
the aquarium. There are also simple chlorine removers on the market,
usually based on photographer's hypo, or Sodium Thiosulfate, that can
quickly neutralize the chlorine into a harmless substance. Your local
fish store sells several brands of chlorine remover. All of these work
immediately. Add the recommended number of drops to the water, stir,
and a minute later the water is safe to use.
Chloramine requires special consideration. Chloramine consists of a
tight chemical bond between chlorine and ammonia. It is used because
it is very stable, and does not break down in the city's water distribution
pipes. It cannot be removed by aeration or aging. It cannot be boiled
out, and it cannot easily be filtered out. The only practical method
of removing chloramine is to purchase a product specifically formulated
to break the chlorine/ammonia bond. Once broken, the chlorine is then
neutralized with Thiosulfate, and the ammonia is released into the water.
This ammonia is the same ammonia our fish excrete as waste, and is consumed
over a few minutes by the beneficial bacteria in our tank. We have been
taught that ammonia is deadly to our fish, and it is, in sufficient concentration
and if the fish are left in the stuff for a length of time. Fortunately,
the amount of ammonia released from chloramine is very small, and is
consumed very quickly by our tank's bacteria. A heavily planted tank
has the advantage of hungry plants that can also consume ammonia very
There are many products that neutralize chloramine. Personally, I prefer
a simple chemical that does that, and only that. I don't want extra additives
that "enhance slime coating," or "neutralize heavy metals," or
any other extra functions. If I wanted my fish's slime coating enhanced,
I would add something to enhance their slime. When I am doing a water
change, all I want is to make the water safe for the fish and for the
tank's bacteria. When choosing a chlorine/chloramine remover, read the
label carefully to see what else it claims to do. You may not want these
additives, either. One of the simplest chlorine/chloramine removers is
Wardley's Chlor-Out. Kordon's Amquel is perhaps a better chlorine/chloramine
remover, because it not only breaks the chloramine bond, but also goes
on to neutralize the ammonia. There are other similar products.
3, Heaters. A few fish can live in cool water. Indeed, Goldfish prefer
water down in the 55-60*F range. White Cloud Mountain Minnows prefer
temperatures down in the 60 degree range. However, most Tropical Fish
(the kind most of us keep) require a warmer temperature, somewhere in
the 76-78*F range. A few, such as Angelfish and Mollys, do better in
the 80-81*F range. Few of us keep our rooms at 81*F in the winter, so
a tank heater will usually be required. I have written a separate article
on how to choose an aquarium heater. For now, I will refer you to that
article. But in general, you should choose a better-quality heater (Ebo-Jager,
Rena Cal, etc.), sized for about 5 watts of power per gallon of water.
This will easily handle the aquarium when the temperature differential
is no more than about 10*F between room temperature and tank temperature.
If your room gets much colder than that, you should choose a larger heater.
For example, a 10 gallon tank in an average living room would normally
do best with a 50 watt heater. If the room gets down in the low 60s or
50s at night, you might want to increase this heater to a 75w or even
a 100w model. A larger heater won't damage the tank. It just makes it
easier to maintain a warmer temperature in a colder room in the winter.
When choosing a heater, you should know that submersible heaters are
a little more efficient than other types of heaters. CAUTION: ALWAYS
unplug a heater before working on the tank. NEVER stick your hands in
the water without first unplugging the heater. Do not ignore these safety
precautions, even one, single time. Should your heater develop a short-circuit
or the glass break, the heater can pose a deadly threat. Make it a habit:
always unplug that heater before your hands go near the water.
4. Thermometers. Never trust the calibrations on a heater. Always provide
a separate, high quality thermometer to measure the tank's actual temperature.
Get in the habit of checking this thermometer at every feeding. Should
a heater fail, you will catch the problem quickly if you do this, and
perhaps save your fish's lives. Photographer's supply houses sell very
accurate thermometers, and you might consider investing in one to keep
as a reference thermometer to check all your other thermometers against.
There are also some very accurate digital thermometers available to photographers,
and these are very useful to the aquarium hobby as well.