Most freshwater fish are perhaps some of the simpler fish to care for when compared to saltwater species because their environment and water parameters are easier to emulate. A basic aquarium set up will be required. You will need a tank, some rocks or substrate to line bottom of the tank. This will provide surfaces for beneficial bacteria to grow on. You will also need a filter, and some lighting. It is essential for the health and survival of your fish that you cycle your tank before introducing fish into it. Cycling your tank with fish in it is possible, but very stressful for both your fish and you, so it’s best to get everything set up before adding your fish…it will save you a lot of time, money and heartache!
Aquarium Care for Freshwater Fish
Cycling your tank is referring to your aquarium’s ability to break down toxic chemicals that build up in your water column such as ammonia and nitrites which are created by decaying left over food and the waste fish excrete into the water. These compounds can be broken down by the beneficial bacteria that has built up on the substrate in your tank and converted into Nitrate, which is still toxic to fish but less so and can be handled better. This is known as the Nitrogen Cycle and it would benefit any new hobbyist to research this in depth to provide the safest environment for their fish. The only way to dilute the presence of nitrates in your tank is by maintaining weekly, partial, water changes (about 15%-40%).
When choosing fish, it is imperative to make sure the fish are compatible. Not only do they need to be compatible for water temperature and P.H., but they also should have similar food requirements. Try to keep the fish relatively the same size. It has been said that if a fish is small enough to fit in another fish’s mouth, that is usually where it ends up. It is also important to look into the minimum tank size and number of fish requirements for these creatures to make sure you are providing enough room and company for them to live happily in their environment.
Freshwater fish should be fed twice daily. Feed only a small amount that can be consumed within the first two to five minutes. Over feeding is a common mistake among novice fish keepers as it really is difficult to tell when your fish are actually full (they are opportunistic eaters and will continue to eat even if it hurts them). Any excess food should be lifted with a net or siphoning hose if possible, as it will become debris and quickly dirty the tank.
Water should be regulated and tested weekly. Any large and unusual increases in ammonia levels should be corrected immediately in order to minimize stress caused to the fish. Stress is significant because it causes illness in fish. It is important to monitor their activity and overall well being in the aquarium. The signs of stress will be fairly obvious. Slow moving or lethargic looking fish will require a stress coat boost that can be purchased at a local pet store. Try to avoid overcrowding the tank. This should help to reduce the amount of stress caused to the fish.
Change about a third of the water in the aquarium at a time, because this type of change will cause the least amount of disturbance to the fish and other inhabitants. This will need to be done every week. Use either a bucket or a siphon to remove the water from the tank. It is also important to have a gravel vac attachment so that you can remove waste from the ground or trapped in decoration and plants.
Remember to unplug your filter and heater before doing water changes as exposing either to the air while they are running may ruin your equipment. Try to remove any loose or floating debris at this time as well. When adding the new water to the aquarium, be sure that it is within approximately two degrees of the tank’s water temperature. Also be sure that you condition the new water or tank with something like API Stress Coat, so that harmful chemicals like chlorine and chloramine, as well as heavy metals can be bound or removed. These chemicals, if allowed to remain in the water, will damage your aquatic life and kill beneficial bacteria. The sides of the aquarium should be scrubbed regularly to remove an algae build up. Again be careful not to disturb the fish. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the aquarium. Lastly, check the manufacturer’s recommendation on filters and change them accordingly. Filters collect any fish waste or left over food. They can’t function properly unless they are clean.
REMEMBER to plug your filter and heater back in when you are finished!
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