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Setting Up Your Freshwater Aquarium
Pet Rating System: 1= Lowest 5 = Highest
Fish are rated moderate for care because they require frequent water changes to maintain water quality. Fish can provide endless hours of relaxation and enjoyment so they rate high on our temperament scale. Fish can be trained to eat out of your hand and show some recognition. The cost of having an aquarium can get expensive if you have problems with water quality and fish diseases. The lifespan of fish can range from a couple of years to 10 years +.
Essential Aquarium Items:
An aquarium can provide many hours of relaxation and enjoyment and can be your own personal "stress reliever". There are so many types, sizes, and kinds of fish that your variation is endless. A well-placed and decorated tank is equivalent to a living piece of visual art in your home. Welcome to the world of aquariums!
The size of the aquarium you select depends largely on your budget and space limitations. There are fish bowls of 1 gallon up to aquariums of several hundred gallons. Different fish have different requirements depending on their future size and their interactions with other inhabitants of the aquarium. A 20 gallon freshwater aquarium housing community fish can hold as many as 20-25 guppies or tetras. The same size aquarium with goldfish inhabitants should only have about 4 goldfish because they will grow quite large and they tend to excrete a lot of waste. A good rule of thumb for a freshwater aquarium is 1 inch of fish for each gallon of water.
Choose a place for your aquarium sturdy enough to support it and one that will not allow your aquarium to fall over. Remember that freshwater weighs about 7 1/2 lbs. per gallon (a 30 gallon tank could weigh well over 225 lbs.). Place your tank on a smooth, flat surface. If larger than 40 gallons, it should be placed on a 1 inch thick piece of foam between it and the flat surface. Place your system away from direct sunlight. Excess light can cause algae to grow and it may become a problem to keep the tank clean.
The choice of filter systems is probably the most important decision you will make. This will provide oxygen to your fish and also keep the waste clear, clean and sparkling. Read the instructions carefully for the system you choose. The most commonly used filter system is the undergravel filter. It consists of a plastic grid made to fit the bottom of the aquarium and is connected to an air pump running oxygen through the system. Do not allow any of the gravel to get under this grid. Your gravel should cover the grid about 1 inch deep. When choosing your gravel, plan for 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. of gravel per gallon of water. Our tap water has chlorine added to kill bacteria. Unfortunately, it also kills fish very quickly. You will need to add chlorine remover to your aquarium every time your change or add water.
The health of the community inside the tank and the visual impact of your display depend upon suitable lighting. In order for plants and fish to survive, the bulbs used should simulate the wavelengths of natural sunlight. At least 10 hours of light a day should keep your plants and fish healthy. Remember to turn your light off at night. Too much light can cause an excess bloom of algae.
The trend today is to landscape with a "natural look" which resembles the fish's natural habitat. Whatever you choose, it should provide hiding places for shy fish and different regions in the tank for fish to establish territories. Make sure any rocks used are non-toxic and will not discolor your water. Rocks can be placed toward the rear of the tank to give a feeling of depth. They also help to conceal equipment such as pipes and filters. Rocks can be carefully piled up and if necessary stabilized with an aquarium silicone. Plants add a dimension of beauty and reality to the aquarium. Wood can be used to decorate but your must be careful because of water discoloration and it does float. There are resin decorations made to look just like wood. With careful consideration, you can have a "piece of nature" in your home.
Once you have your tank set-up and running, let the tank run for about 24 hours before putting in your new fish. Start with a few fish in the beginning and add a few more every two weeks until you are within the guidelines for keeping a healthy aquarium. Choose your fish based on whether they are compatible with each other, are they suitable for the water conditions, will they outgrow the tank, and are they pleasing to your eye. Be sure to pick healthy fish. When observing the fish, they should be actively swimming. Look for those which are brightly colored and swim with erect fins; avoid small, thin or stunted fish. Avoid fish where the majority of the other inhabitants look sick or dying. The bag of fish you bring home should be floated in your aquarium for 10-15 minutes to allow the temperature in the bag to equalize with the temperature in the tank. The fish will be shocked by any sudden temperature change as you release them from the bag. Open the bag and let the fish swim out on their own.
Feed your fish once a day and only as much as they will eat in 1 minute. Keep in mind that a fish's stomach is about the size of his eyeball. Therefore, judge your feeding accordingly. Overfeeding is one of the main reasons new aquarium owners begin to have problems. Overfeeding creates waste which can turn into poisons and eventually kill your fish.
A properly set-up aquarium should be regularly maintained with the following:
Weekly cleaning of the glass with an aquarium scrubber to remove algae
Weekly checking the insert of your filter to see if it needs to be cleaned
Weekly top off water due to evaporation
Monthly change activated carbon
Monthly change 25% of water and refill with new non-chlorinated water (no need to remove fish when doing this
Read more in our Advanced Fish Section
Video on how to set-up your new aquarium:
Enjoy your new aquarium and the "piece of nature" it can bring to your home!