If you choose to keep fish as pets, owning an aquarium is a wonderful experience. It brings you hours of entertainment, something to care about, and a vibrant underwater world into your living space. Aquarium keeping is part pet ownership and part careful management of an underwater ecosystem. It’s not like keeping a cat or a dog, you must consider more than food for fish. They may need treatments for illnesses, a special type of food, or a certain PH in the water. There are so many considerations to make before you buy your aquarium that you must be certain that this is for you.
Want to keep an aquarium? Great! Here are the things to think about before you rush out and buy one.
What’s the Difference Between a Fish Tank and an Aquarium?
What’s the difference between a fish tank and an aquarium? It comes down to Aquariums are underwater ecosystems, carefully managed and controlled. Usually an aquarium is at least partially heated. They can contain vibrant and beautiful fish species.
When we talk about a fish tank, we can also mean an aquarium. However, the words “fish tank” conjure to mind a barer tank, containing a sad little castle or skull, a plastic plant, and two goldfish. This is not an ecosystem, it’s just a place where you keep your fish.
So, to be a good fish owner, you want to aim for a balanced aquarium where the filters, animals, fish, plants, and biofilm, all work together. Fish tanks are for people who won a fish at the fayre.
Building Up An Ecosystem
To start creating this aquarium ecosystem you must carefully consider which your fish will be healthy and happy within. Don’t start by limiting your search to fish, either. There are a whole variety of snails, sea creatures, and freshwater shellfish which you can place in your tank.
Freshwater or Saltwater, Hot or Cold?
This is the first decision to make. Freshwater fish may or may not need a heated tank. Goldfish, certain types of tetras, barbs, loaches, and cherry shrimp are all freshwater, non-heated tank capable marine life.
You can also have a freshwater heated tank. If you want black neon tetras, blue danio, or tropical fish. In a heated freshwater tank, you can keep sharks if you want to. There is a lot of choice.
If you choose a heated saltwater tank you must carefully manage the brine and PH levels in your tank. You must also be careful not to let the tank drop below 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you choose a saltwater cold tank, you are limited in choice. You can get cold water clown fish, angelfish, gobies, and eels, and the attention and care they require is the same as that of a heated saltwater fish.
Choosing the right tank size for your aquarium
The bigger the tank, the greater the number of fish you may keep. Fish need more space than you think. If you choose a hot water aquarium you will need a heater. You will need a good filter to clean the water and an oxygenator for the water. This keeps it from becoming stagnant. Remember to take space, carry weight, and maintenance into consideration.
Choosing the right filtration system for your aquarium
Your filtration system is important. It must be the correct strength to match your tank, otherwise you will get soup-like water and other signs of an unhealthy tank. If you see things like debris, massive algae blooms, or white and stringy poop floating around in the water, then your filter either isn’t working, needs unblocking, or needs you to change it. You can get carbon filters, sponge filters, and power filters. If you have a larger-than-life tank, you might need more than one.
Creating a habitat
Choose a substrate and line the bottom of the aquarium with it. You might choose gravel, stone, or sand. Once your substrate is in place, consider a real plant over a plastic one. The fish will eat the algae that the plant encourages, as well as nibbling on the leaves. This gives them micronutrients they may not get from their food.
You may decorate the tank as you see fit, but fish love hidey-holes. They will be happiest if they have shade. Give them things to swim in and out of. Driftwood is valuable, as are the skulls and castles mentioned earlier.
Water: A Vital Part of Aquarium Setup
Getting the water consistently correct is key to keeping healthy fish and marine animals.
Once you choose the temperature, there is no going back. You can buy stick-on-thermometers which attach to the tank and monitor the temperature. It is important that you do not either freeze or cook the fish. Follow species guidelines and don’t buy any marine life which doesn’t fit in your temperature of tank.
Monitoring the PH level of your tank gives you insight into how well balanced the eco system is. Certain fish thrive at certain PH levels, so make sure you follow the rules per species.
Nitrites, Nitrates, & Ammonia Levels
All three levels indicate how healthy and clean your tank is. When your filter has done all it can, a water change can help. Set up your tank and let it settle for three days before you put any fish in it. Failing to do this can lead to new tank syndrome, especially in the Tetra species. If water changes stop working, you may require a new filter.
Adding New Fish
Let the fish quarantine in a separate part of the tank, or in another space altogether. Keep it up to three days to ensure it is healthy. Release the fish slowly, put it in a plastic fish bag and let it float in the new tank, separately from the others, until the fish adjusts to the water temperature.
How often do you feed your fish?
Once you add your fish, you must feed them a species-specific diet. Feeding your fish two or three times a day in smaller portions is fine. Try to feed them diverse types of food to help create a balanced diet.
With regular water testing, treatment, and changes, your fish can live for years at a time. Take care of them well and you will have a variety of funny, friendly, fishy companions for years to come.