Almost everyone knows what an aquarium is, so it is probably safe to assume that a definition would not be necessary. Chances are you have seen one at a friend’s house, at a company’s reception, at a restaurant or even at a party. Aquariums are lovely decorations that add a touch of class to any room. You might have also wished to have your own aquarium but thought the idea was too far fetched or you simply cannot seem to figure out how to acquire one. That’s typical of a beginner but this simple but detailed guide to freshwater aquarium fish will set you on a path to owning your first fish tank. However, there is a bit of a learning curve involved. For a start, you need to learn about the unique types of fish and their peculiar needs as well as proper fish husbandry in order to keep them healthy. Finding the perfect fresh water tank, where to place it, and the size of the tank are some of the other important factors that you would need to consider.
Selecting The Best Fish For Your Freshwater Aquarium
Basically, you would choose fish for your tank according to specific criteria. For example, you might base your selection on their ability to coexist with other types, their hardiness against diseases, their health, and of course cost of buying and maintaining them. Here are a few common examples of ideal fish to have in an aquarium:
Goldfish – There are many reasons why goldfish is a favorite for many one of which is that they are basically quite hardy and can survive in varying temperatures from 4 to 32 degrees centigrade. If cared for properly, goldfish can live for many years and this is another reason why you need to be truly committed if you want to rare them. The third reason is that they are available in many different colors such as gold, black, white and even orange. It is advisable to avoid keeping them in tiny bowls which become polluted quickly and consequently require frequent maintenance. A 20 gallon tank with a power or canister filter is ideal for raising healthy goldfish.
Betta – Most fish enthusiasts have heard of betta. They are the second most popular in aquariums after goldfish. The males are also referred to as Siamese fighting fish. Male betta fish are quite popular because of their beautiful and vivid brilliance of color. The females, which have subdued colors, can reside together peacefully in a fish tank but the males simply do not coexist and constantly attack each other. They show aggressive behavior by flaring out their gill covers in a fighting posture which is why they are always kept in separate containers at fish stores. Most people keep them in small tanks with dividers to separate the aggressive males. However, the best way to allow them to display their color is by keeping them in a 10 gallon or larger aquarium that has a heater to maintain the water at a constant temperature.
Angelfish -A classic among freshwater aquarists, these fish offer a good starting point for beginners as they are easy to maintain and get along well with other species of fish. They are eye-catching and come in a variety of different colors. Their feeding habits are fairly low maintenance as they will eat almost anything. Angelfish usually have a typical diet of shrimp and worms in the wild but in captivity they can be feed commercial fish food and flakes – although it’s a good idea to give them a varied diet for better health.
Guppies – These are beautiful fish which come in breathtaking colors. In fact, some are bred especially because of their vibrant body patterns. Guppies require a tank of at least 40 gallons and they are very easy to breed. In fact, if you are looking to try fish breeding, this one would be a good choice as they are capable of giving birth to over 200 fry each month.
Killifish -With over 2000 species spread all over the world, Killifish are a special type of fish which are most suited to seasoned aquarists. Their average lifespan is just 2 years and most species require specific water and tank conditions. Due to these factors, it may seem as though keeping Killifish would not be worthwhile for your aquarium but the reward for your efforts come in the form of the stunning natural beauty of these creatures (as shown in the photo). Killifish are rare and one of the most colorful fish in the world.
Pufferfish – Renowned for their defense mechanism where they inflate their bodies, Pufferfish are very unusual looking creatures which will add a sense of personality and depth to your aquarium as they will dwell along the bottom. They are usually found in warm waters and are suitable for most aquariums because they are friendly towards other fish in a community tank.
Arowana – Arowana fish are a highly sought after fish for aquarists, especially in Asia as they are a symbol of luck and prosperity. This symbolism has flowed to other parts of the world and these fish are now very popular in the United States and throughout Europe. The supply and demand of this fish as led to rising prices and limited supply. However, should you be fortunate enough to find them, you will find that they are friendly, unique looking and capable of growing to over 3 feet in length.
Catfish – This is another popular type of fish that you will almost always find in many freshwater aquariums. It is so named because of its cat-like whiskers. Unlike most fish, catfish do not have scales giving them a sleek appearance. Most species have a patterned body with spots or black marks. Their diet consists of plants and smaller fish; a good reason to avoid keeping them in same tank with other fish. They are a bottom-dwelling fish and prefer tanks with a lot of hiding places. They may be aggressive to other fish when bullied but are usually very compatible to others of the same species. Also bear in mind that they can also grow to great size and weight which is why you need a big tank for this type of fish.
The Silver Dollar – This is another favorite for many fish lovers. They area tropical fish and referred to as the silver dollar due to its thin round shape that resembles a dollar coin. Their average measurement is about 5 inches long but some are known to grow longer and larger – depending on living conditions. They survive and usually move around in schools of 5 or 6 and can coexist with other types of tropical fish such as swordtails and catfish. Silver dollars are known to be peaceful fish and require a tank with a water pH of 6 – 7.5. and nitrate levels of below 50ppm.
Tinfoil barb – This type of fish derives its name from its resemblance to aluminum foil. It is blessed with longevity genes and as such should not be bought by beginners tying to experiment on aquariums. It has quite a hearty appetite and will eat almost anything including smaller fish and algae growing inside the tank. You will need a tank larger than 55 gallons to keep this type of fish. It is a schooling fish and will thrive well in the company of other members of its species.
Archerfish – This is a fish whose name is derived from its ability to shoot down insects resting on the water surface. It can also jump out of the water to get at an insect. It is an omnivore and feeds on meal worms, live insects, and plankton. Dry seaweed is also a good diet for archerfish. It thrives better when kept in groups than on its own. However, it should not be kept with smaller species as it might eat them when it is fully grown.
Clown loach – Clown loach (scientific name: Chromobotia macracanthus) are a colorful fish with beautiful stripes and can grow up to a foot long. It is however best kept by experienced fish hobbyists because it easily succumbs to bad water quality. Experienced aquarium owners understand the kind of water balance need to keep this type of fish healthy. They require aquarium of over 75 gallons, good filtration systems and regular water changes as the tank must be clean at all times.
Cichlid – Biologists believe there are more than the documented 1,000 cichlid species. They are found in many places all over the world with different names such as Angelfish, Jack Dempsey, and Tiger Oscar Cichlids. Cichlids are herbivores and will eat algae, plants and flakes. They tank temperature should be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When buying this type of fish for your aquarium, select the tank mates carefully to avoid having different species in the same tank.
Setting Up Your Freshwater Aquarium
There are several things you need to realize when planning to set up your first freshwater fish aquarium. For instance, owning a fish tank will require almost the same amount of efforts and attention you give to your normal pet such as dog or cat. It will take a bit of work and some money on your part – obviously the amount of effort and money that will be required will be determined by the size of the aquarium, the variety and population of the fish. There are maintenance tasks that you will need to undertake weekly or at the very least once in every two weeks. These are basic tasks such as replacing the water and feeding the fish, nothing technical. Some of expenses you should be prepared to undergo are recurring costs of buying food for the fish and replacing filter media among others.
It is also important to note that the fish breathe the same air and thrive under the same conditions as everyone else in your household so keeping them comfortable should not be difficult if your house is comfortable enough for you. However, you’ll need to actually create a livable habitat for the fish similar to their natural underwater environment. This is why having a freshwater fish aquarium is actually a hobby you have to be passionate about, unlike owning a pet as a household item. The task is not difficult once you understand all the necessary requirements and with good planning. Getting started is the hard part but once you have a healthy fish tank, the rest becomes a matter of routine care and feeding the fish.
To avoid the pitfalls that many novice fish keepers fall into, plan your set up adequately by considering the following factors:
Location of the aquarium – To find the perfect location for your fish tank you first need to understand that a gallon of water might weigh about 8 pounds and with substrate it will more likely weigh 100 pounds. This means you’ll need a permanent and stable location. Remember to allow some room behind the tank to accommodate equipment and cables. This will also provide you with space for maintenance duties.
For a larger tank, you may need to purchase a stand of quality construction and strength. Keep in mind tat the tank should be placed on a strong and level surface. Keep the tank away from direct sunlight as this may promote algae growth. Direct sunlight can also result in overheating. Do not place the tank too close to doors and windows where there is likely to be drafts that cause temperature changes. Keep the tank away from high traffic areas as constant movement will keep the fish edgy and stressed.
Size of the aquarium – The size of your fish tank will largely depend on the type and number of fish you intend to keep. However, having small half gallon or 5 gallon bowls is quite limiting to the fish unless you are keeping bettas. Some types of fish such as goldfish will require a lot of room since they can outgrow a 10 gallon aquarium quite fast.
Most beginners start with the popular ‘desktop’ tanks of between 5 and 10 gallons size. This is okay as long as you are aware of the adult size of the fish and avoid overstocking. The best size for a beginner’s fish tank should be from 20 to 55 gallons. This will provide you with a wide range of options on types of fish to keep. It will also make maintenance tasks less cumbersome. With a larger water volume, any changes that may occur will not be abruptly experienced by the fish since there is more water to buffer the effect. This will give a beginner enough time to take mitigating measures.
Tall tanks are more attractive than wide ones since they provide an elongated view of the aquarium. However, they provide less surface area than wide tanks. Having sufficient surface area is important in exchange of gases.
Planning For Your Fish Stock
It is important to know the gallon of water per inch of an adult fish when planning your stock. However, in most cases the length and mass of fish are not always the same. The best approach will be to consider the size of adult fish as large fish will definitely need more water. Different types of fish have different characteristics. There are some which are adapted to swimming long distances and are constantly on the move while others prefer a sedentary lifestyle but can be quite aggressive if there is not enough room to share with the rest.
It will therefore be important to plan your stock wisely. Find out more information about different fish types from books and other online resources which are quite available in the market before you invest in your stock. It will also be important to have a good plan if you are interested in having live plants in your freshwater aquarium. Some types of fish will aggressively uproot all the live plants in your tank. Your choice to have plants in your tank will depend on the fish you intend to keep.
A good recommendation for a beginner is to have combination of fish that can coexist peacefully in the same tank. Hardy species which are resistant to diseases and changes are an ideal choice too. You’ll also need to differentiate cold water fish from tropical fish. For example goldfish are cold water species which should not be kept in the same aquarium with most freshwater fish which are tropical. An advantage of freshwater fish is that they can easily acclimatize to a wide range of pH levels. Avoid investing in fish with limited or very specific pH requirements.
Regular Maintenance Tips
It’s important to emphasize the fact that you should be prepared to spend some time once per week or at minimum once every two weeks to give your freshwater aquarium regular maintenance checks. Changing the water regularly will help reduce nitrate levels and keep your fish healthy. You’ll need a few equipment and tools for maintenance purposes. Here are a few examples:
- A gravel vacuum to remove excess waste from the substrates and to clean your filters.
- 5 gallon buckets for water changes.
- A manual scrapper to remove the build-up of algae from the walls of the tank.
- Nets to remove the fish safely from one tank to another when the need arises.
Remember to get a water conditioner too. This is very important since most aquariums use tap water which contains chlorine or chloramines meant to purify the water for human consumption but quite harmful to your aquarium environment. Tap water needs to be conditioned before it is filled into the fish tank. A good water conditioner will neutralize chlorine and other heavy metals to make safe for your delicate fish.
Setting up a fish tank costs money and it would be unwise to leave it neglected. At the very least think of the living conditions of the beautiful creatures inside the aquarium and give them all the love and care they deserve.