Aquarium Tips
 

Ongoing list of useful gems about tropical freshwater community fishkeeping.
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In no particular order:

  1. Water Quality
  2. Feeding Tips
  3. Water Change
  4. Cleaning Tips
  5. Which Species?
  6. Fish Tank Size
  7. How Many Fish?
  8. Disease
  9. Filters
  10. Filter Types
  11. Filter Cleaning
  12. Plants
  13. Water Acidity
  14. Temperature/ heaters
  15. Good Community
  16. Aquarium Internal Furniture
  17. Aquarium External Furniture, Electrics and Fittings
  18. Breeding
  19. Sex (gender) of Fish
  20. Fins Info
  21. Lighting Guidelines
  22. Moving House
  23. Bagging Fish Properly
  24. Introducing New Fish
  25. Cleaning Glass
  26. Aquarium Position
  27. Lifespan of Fish
  28. Algae
  29. Going Away on Holiday
  30. General Ongoing Maintenance
  31. Electrical Safety
  32. Snails
  33. Aeration
  34. Dead Body Disposal


Water Quality
Good water quality is an essential aspect of fishkeeping. Broadly speaking, if you have a good community and you look after the water quality, the fish will look after themselves. See other topics below for further tips about maintaining good water quality.

Essentials are:
  • Regular cleaning
  • Good filtration
  • Not over-feeding
  • Minimum dead space
  • Not having too many fish
  • No dead/decaying plants


Feeding Tips
Do not overfeed your fish.
Fish are cold blooded and as such they only need food for energy and health. They do not needs huge amounts of food to heat their bodies like us. Your aquarium heater does that.
Overfeeding is a common mistake and leads to unhealthy fish in dirty aquariums.
I recommend feeding daily and have one day a week where you don't feed them at all.
If your fish are hungry at feeding time and visibly excited, this is a good sign that you have healthy fish.

Try and give them a bit of variety in their diet. Buy them a few different food types and mix it up. Over the course of a week, I recommend 5 days of various dry foods, 1 day of frozen or live food. The dry foods are packed with nutrients, but live food and frozen live food are a great source of protein and they love it.
It is not good to give too much live/ frozen food as it makes a mess and dirties the tank and doesn't contain good balanced nutritional content.

The instructions on fishfood packets usually says to give them as much as they will eat in a few minutes several times a day. I believe this is wrong! Fish will eat an enormous amount in a few minutes and feeding this much will lead to dirty aquariums and unhealthy bloated fish. The manufacturors of food clearly have a vested interest in you using more food. Once a day as much as they eat in one minute will usually be fine.

Some fish like small amounts blanched lettuce or spinach or pieces of cucumber. Do not leave these in the tank though. Remove the remains after 1 hour.

You may well need to use different types of food for different fish. For example your bottom dwelling catfish will not feed on flake. It can be hard to get the right food to the right fish. I recommend using the following tactic. Feed bottom dwellers first and let their pellets or wafers sink to the bottom. Delivery through a piece of filter tube to the bottom can be useful to stop your fiesty middle dwellers stealing it before it reaches the bottom.
Next very quickly feed the middle top dwellers, to distract them from stealing the bottom dwellers food.

Depending on your fish, you may need to device other tactics to get the right food to the right fish. It can be funny to watch, but if middle dwelling fish get hold of catfish wafers a game of fishtank rugby often ensues.

Blocks of frozen live food are best delivered by half filling a glass with tank water, dropping in the food blocks and leaving for 10 minutes to thaw. Give it a stir to break up all the bloodworm, brineshrimp or whatever and then poor into the tank. The act of filling a glass in the tank sends my fish into a frenzy of excitement.




Water Change
Water changes are essential to healthy aquariums. I recommend at least 10-15% of the water every 10 days.
I recommend cleaning the algae off the glass up to a day before you do the water change. This gives a great polished clean aquarium the day after the water change. Water change is also vital to replenish electrolytes and other important elements in the water which the fish need for good health.

Water change may seem like a chore, but it needn't take more than 30mins. This amounts to roughly 1/300th of your waking hours which is not much to have a beautiful aquarium in your home. Combine the water change with a cleanout at the same time, see 'Cleaning Tips' below.

Water can be replaced very carefully by bucket.
The easiest/ most painless method I think is using a clean hose from your cold water tap. The hose must have only ever been used for this purpose. Buy a cheap hosepipe specifically for your fishtank water changes. I also run the hose through a nitrate/phosphate filter (Nitragon). This is not entirely necessary, depending on the quality of your water supply.
Make sure to use a commercial dechlorinator solution.
Buy the most economical available.

Far from being stressful, I find that healthy settled fish are usually very interested and playful when you clean/ change the tank water. If you have any fish that hide away abnormally, make a note as this can be an early sign of stress or illness.


Cleaning Tips
It is essential to keep your aquarium clean. This includes water, all of the dead spaces where water does not flow freely, filters, gravel or substrate, algae removal and within/ around the leaves of plants. Some of these topics have sections of their own below.

You will need a good quality suction, syphon device. This will be the best 20 bucks you spend on your tank. Use this to suck water through the gravel or dirtiest parts of your tank. If you have ornaments, bog wood, fish hideaways or other internal furniture, move these and clean around where they have been. These spots are usually the muckiest in the tank as dirt and poo can lodge there and build up due to lack of water flow.

If you do not want to disturb your fish too much for example a catfish in a tube or hideaway, make sure that these items sit on the bottom glass of the tank, to minimise the muck underneath. Clean as best as you can around them

Try to avoid big movements, be gentle and flowing with your work so as not to scare the fish, but by and large I find that happy fish enjoy water changes.

Don't waste your dirty fish tank water. House plants, garden vegetables etc love this stuff. It is perfect fertilising water for any plants.

Make sure not to get any oil, detergents or soap products anywhere near the fishtank water as these are all very bad for fish health.


Which Species?
Choosing the correct species is the single most important aspect of fishkeeping. You will not have healthy happy fish if they don't get on with each other in the space they have.

This is obviously a bigger topic than I can write here, but a few general guidelines are as follows:

Balance your fish across the top/middle/bottom levels of your tank.

Bottom feeders generally can be territorial, so limit these fish. In tanks less than 4feet, one catfish or Loach may often be enough.

Small-medium sized middle/ top feeders often like company. Try and keep small schools of these fish together.

If you have large middle feeders like Oscars, Discus, Angels let them have the whole tank strata to themselves unless you have a large tank.

Do not overpopulate...period.
The single most common mistake is to buy too many fish. This will always result in premature death. Buy fish that you really like and give them space to live happily. See 'How Many Fish' below. Be mindful that most fish should live more than 5 years (some much more). Only tiny fish such as Danios and Tetra live less at perhaps 3 years.

Be aware of the nature/ requirements of any species you buy, before you buy them. They may look really pretty but have really bad attitude problems once mixed with the wrong company. If in doubt, ask the shop staff or consult reference books. If the advice is to not get them, don't get them.

Do not mix Siamese Fighter fish with any other fish (inclucing other Siamese fighters) except perhaps a bottom dwelling catfish or tiny tetra. None..Never..or they will die.




Fish Tank Size
Buy the biggest tank that you can afford or fit in your home (within reason). It is possible to get great bargains on the second hand market. Never buy a tank with fish included unless you specifically want these fish (See 'Moving House').

It may seem counter intuitive, but it is actually much easier to keep a bigger aquarium than a small one. The ideal starting size is a 4 foot tank, not a 1 foot tank.

If you only have space for or only want a small tank, you will find that your cleaning regime will be tougher to maintain and the number of fish will be far fewer. Cramming fish into a small tank is bad form and will lead to deaths.

I recommend the very minimum tank size of 2 foot wide (60cm) or 60 litres volume.

Obviously tanks can be different proportions, the important factors are total volume of water and area of surface water, as this dictates how much oxygen can get into the water. It is harder to get oxygen to the bottom of a tall tank, so you will need to improve water circulation and airation in higher tanks. In general stick to standard proportions. I recommend 4' x 12" x 18" (120cm x 30cm x 45cm) as a basic size tank. With a depth increase to 18" or 45cm being a big bonus for you and your fish.

Make sure that your floor can support the weight of water. Fish tanks are very heavy. Make sure that you have a very sturdy or purpose built base.
Do not try and move a tank with water in it.

If you do buy a second hand fish tank, make sure the silicone seals are in good condition. It may be worth thoroughly cleaning and resealing them yourself before you fill with water. This is easily done as sealant is widely available. Aquarium sealant is magic stuff and is always useful around the house for all sorts of non aquarium related DIY jobs. It literally sticks anything to anything forever.



How Many Fish?
When it comes to fish numbers, less is always more.
Never cram a tank full of fish.
Always think through any fish purchase with care before hand and don't buy fish (or any animal) on a whim.
They say a puppy is for life not just for xmas and this also applies to fish. Especially since fish may outlive any cat, dog or horse. I have a catfish that is still going strong after 18 years.

The standard guide to fish numbers is a ratio of fishtank surface area (length x width) divided by total fish length (not including tail fins). You should aim to have no more than 2.5cm (1") of fish length for every 70cm2 of tank surface area.

This guide is based on the amount of oxygen in the water rather than fish comfort.

I recommend understocking your tank. If you give your fish space to swim, their personalities and colours will come out and everyone will be happy.

An understocked tank will keep cleaner and clearer and will require less maintenance.

Keep a bottom dweller, one or two schools of middle dwellers and a school of little top feeders.
or
Keep a bottom dweller, one or a few bigger middle dwellers (depending on species) and a school or two of top feeders.

Provide folliage and features for fish to swim and hide behind and make sure the tank is well filtered and airated.

Airation can be done either by strong water flow from filter outputs or using an air pump. If you are using the gravel as a filter media, an air pump is essential anyway, otherwise a carefully stocked and well filtered tank should be fine without an air pump.


Disease
In a well kept aquarium, fish should never get disease.
Disease is nearly always caused by poor water quality. Be aware than even if the water seems clear, the nitrate and Phosphate levels may still be dangerously high.

If you stick to the guidelines on this page about care and maintenance, you will always have good water quality and disease free fish.

Never let diseased fish into your tank. Be vigilant about the health of the fish that you purchase. If the aquarium shop has poor fish tank hygiene, don't shop there. If you see an unhealthy fish go into your bag when you purchase, ask for it to be replaced. If a tank has a dead fish in it, do not buy any fish from this tank.

Stressed animals get ill, just like you and me. If water quality is low, or a fish is being bullied it may well get ill. If a fish gets ill, it can then pass this on to other fish.

Prevention is always better than cure. Keep your tank in good order and the fish will stay healthy.

It is perfectly possible for a fish that you have kept for years to get ill, even if no external disease has been introduced. This may be due to stress which reduces immunity and symptoms may arrise.

A classic example of this is hole in the head disease in Cichlids. These fish all have the bacteria all the time, but symptoms only arrise if the fish is stressed.


Filters
Good filtration is essential to a healthy fish tank. There are many types of filtration, see 'Filter Types' below.
Most filters use bacterial cultures to convert toxic ammonia and nitrites into less toxic nitrates.
The bacterial collonies work in combination with mechanical filter media that physically break down and trap dirt.

I recommend using two types of filtration in every tank, but don't use two of the same type as these can get into weird bacterial phases where they kill each other off.

In my experience a high quality external filter for deep bacterial filtration used in conjunction with a smaller internal filter for water clarity is the perfect combination. This also has the added advantage that when you clean one, the other will seed the newly cleaned one with 'friendly' bacteria.

It is advisable to position one of your filter outlets above the heater, so that the temperature of water is spread evenly around the tank.

Filters have different cleaning requirements, see below.

Also be aware that as the filters clog with dirt between cleaning, the output flow will slow dramatically. This is not necessarily an indicator that the filter is not working, as the water spends longer with the bacteria and thus gets cleaned more effectively, but it may reduce the water flow in your tank which has a knock on effect on fish exercise and oxygen levels.




Filter Types

Gravel filtration
If you want to have a thick gravel layer, I recommend setting up a gravel filter underneath it. Gravel holds a huge amount of dirt and if not used as part of a filtration system, it will over time probably render the tank unuseable.

Use a syphon cleaner regularly to clean the gravel, but unless a gravel filter is installed, don't put more than half a cm of gravel into the tank. A thin layer can be cleaned effectively, any more becomes unsustainable.

External filters
External filters are the bread and butter of filtration. I recommend a good external filter for every tank. Inside the filter, you should use a layer of wide bore ceramic mechanical substrate to trap dirt, followed by a load of sponge to house your bacterial colony and then some filter wool to extract the last particles of dirt and give the water a shine. I also recommend using the baked ceramic filter media alongside your sponge layer. These have huge amounts of tiny holes in them and are perfect for dense bacterial colonies. This media is quite expensive, but worth it.

If the output of the filter is too powerful for the fish, get a longer outlet pipe, with multiple little holes to spread the flow.

The filter output is a good way to simulate natural water flow in your tank and the fish like this, but if it's too powerful, it will stress the fish out.


Internal filters
A simple, small internal filter is invaluable for keeping your water clear. They mostly use sponge and add extra water flow and boost filtration.


Nitrate Filters
If your tap water is of a low quality, you may want to use a nitrate filter to pre-clean your tap water before putting it into the tank. These work by ION exchange. Far from essential, these are good if your water supply has a high nitrate or phosphate level, or you are keeping sensitive fish such as discus.



Filter Cleaning
Filter cleaning is a necessary evil of keeping fish. It is essential to keep your filters in good working order and this requires ocassional cleaning. Second only to moving house, filter cleaning is the biggest chore of fishkeeping.

You will need to get your hands dirty, but despite the look of the black filth that comes out, they are not too toxic or smelly. Make sure to clean your hands and arms afterwards though.

Internal filters are easy to clean. Syphon 2/3rds of a bucket of water. Switch off the unit, remove and clean the sponge elements in your fish tank water and replace. Make sure to clean your internal filters at least once a month or one in three times that you do a water change. You do not need to worry too much about killing off the filter bacteria if you have another filter running, as these will easily repopulate. Also their purpose is as much for 'skimming' the water clean as for bacterial effect.

External filters are, I can't lie, always a bit of a pig to clean, but luckily they do not need to be cleaned too regularly. Once per year is often OK, as long as there is still some flow through. If they stop working, you will also need to go through the following routine to replace parts or fix the problem.

It is common for external filters to initiate a reverse syphon as soon as you switch them off, so some care is needed, so as not to flood your room.

Buy an external filter with flow switches/ valves, so that you can closed the in/outputs at the same time as switching off. This will also hopefully keep some water in the pipes so that the syphon will continue straight away when you turn them on again.

Fill a bucket with fish tank water, as you do not want to clean the sponges and bacterial filter media with tap water as the chlorine and cold will kill off all the bacteria. You may need several buckets of water in all to clean it out as the amount of muck that comes out is extraordinary. The contents of a well used external filter could turn a swimming pool black.

Place your filter in a bath or other large basin before opening. Clean the filter wool/floss in normal cold water until it's original colour returns.

Clean the sponges and other bacterial filter media in the fish tank water until their original colour returns.

Once all the media is clean, place it back in the container. You may want to replace any elements which have worn away, decayed or dissintegrated. Also take a moment to inspect the rubber seal as these can deteriorate over time.

Before putting the lid back on, fill the filter up to the top with fish tank water and then place the lid on. This should spill some water. This way, you know that it is as full as it can be.

Reposition the filter under the tank or where it is housed and connect the pipes. When you are ready, take a deep breath and turn the power on. Very quickly then switch the in/out open pipes together to allow the flow to start again. All being well the filter should start to syphon correctly with a flurry of bubbles into the tank. If it doesn't work, close the valves and switch off again. You will need to refill the filter and the pipes with water and try again.

Once you get it going again, every couple of minutes lightly rock the filter to release any trapped air bubbles. If left, these can collect in the filter and stop the flow.


Plants
Plants provide shelter and home to your fish, they add visual effect and generally enhance your aquarium.

If you have a passion for living aquatic plants then I thoroughly recommend keeping freshwater plants in your tank. If you don't then I recommend using only plastic plants.

It is actually quite hard to keep aquatic plants well unless you have very bright lighting and good consistent CO2 levels. Most freshwater species of fish do not really appreciate very bright lights and they lead to lots of algae, so all in all I think it is usually better to use plastic alternatives.

Plants are prone to decaying inside the tank. Dead leaves can make a mess of your valued water quality.

There is quite an art to keeping real aquatic plants and it is beyond the scope of this article.

Plastic plants
The fish do not care if the plants are plastic.

New plastic plants often look a bit lurid, but with time, they cover in a thin layer of algae and look more authentic.

It is advisable to regularly clean your plastic plants as they can house a lot of muck.

A little trick is to remove them and clean them under tap water. Leave them out of the tank for a few days to a week until they are dry and then replace them.

You will probably find (depending on fish species) that after a couple of days they appear almost brand new again. This is because the fish like to eat the dry algae off them.



Water Acidity
Across the world the acidity of freshwater bodies varies and as such different fish require subtly different pH levels. Amazon river fish such as discus and angels are used to slightly soft water due to the amount of folliage in the river. On the other hand African rift valley fish such as cichlids are used to slightly harder water due to the amount of course limey rocks which are breaking down into the water.

Be aware before you buy any fish if they have a specific pH requirement. In truth, most general fish that you buy will be OK in standard tap water and adjusting pH levels is not something I would recommend unless you are an experienced fishkeeper.

In general stick to fish that have no specific requirements, but check first.


Temperature/ heaters
Anywhere between 24-28o will be fine for most freshwater fish. Some freshwater fish are better at handling temperature changes than others. Some catfish/guppies/mollies/danios can survive fine in colder water.

Gouramis suffer greatly in water over 28o.

Buy a good quality heater and replace it every 2-3 years. If you get a layer of lime on the heater, make sure to clean this off.

If you need to remove the heater from the tank, turn it off and leave it to stand for 20mins before taking it out of the tank to allow it to cool down and not crack or damage.

Strangely I have always found that my fish really enjoy the cold water and bubbles in any colder water that I put into the tank. Obviously there is a limit though and the 'global' temperature of the tank should not drop below 240.

As a note, some species of fish can be triggered to breed by lowering the water level of the tank over a period of 1-2 weeks and then putting in slightly colder water afterwards. This simulates the seasonal flow of water in rivers (particularly the Amazon) which is when these fish would breed in the wild.


Good Community
See 'Which Species' above.


Aquarium Internal Furniture
Avoid putting too many items into your tank. It is important to provide appropriate home for your different species, but any object that you put in will collect muck underneath and around it. It must be possible to move and clean around anything that you place in the tank. See 'Cleaning Tips' section above.


Aquarium External Furniture, Electrics and Fittings
Make sure that your tank is placed on a very strong and secure base. Ideally use a stand that is purpose built for aquariums. I recommend buying the nicest looking unit you can afford, since you have to live with it and once the tank is set up, it is very hard/ impossible to replace. A unit with cupboards is ideal as you will innevitably have tools, nets and bits and bobs that are best hidden.

I recommend placing the whole unit and tank on a tough rug, so as not to damage the flor/ carpet and also to absorb any spillages.

Make sure that all the electrical fittings are positioned away from possible leakage. It is a very good idea to loop all cables running near the tank so that the lowest point is a loop below the plug sockets. This way any drips will fall to the floor and not run down into your plugs.

Make sure that over time dust doesn't build up near light starter units and other electrical elements.

Your aquarium will be a permanent fixture in your room and should be a clean bright proud showpiece.


Breeding
Breeding is, for the minute at least, beyond the scope of this article.


Sex (gender) of Fish
All species of fish vary as regards to how to sex them. Some species are clearly obvious such as guppies, rainbow fish and some cichlids where they look clearly different with males showing fancy colouring and tail fins. Other species, like some catfish cannot be sexed without dissecting the fish and studying their tiny inner ear bone.

It is also possible for fish to change sex in some species over their lifetime or in response to chemical or environmental pressures. The use of suntan lotion in the mediteranean Sea for example is having this affect on many species.


Fins Info



Lighting Guidelines
If you keep live plants, the guidelines are different.

In general, in a tank without live plants you should have medium bright lighting with shaded areas in the tank for fish to escape the light.

Too much light will create algal blooms. See 'Algae' below.

For most freshwater community tanks, a single flourescent strip will suffice and you should replace this every 1-2 years as the spectral colour balance fails.

It is your choice what 'colour' lights you buy. They range from near UV to very green and this can have a big impact on the look of the tank. It is always very weird when you replace a flourescent strip as it will seem wrong for a few days. It's a bit like the sensation of a new toothpaste which seems weird the first few times you use it.

Some people like to have a couple of hours of moonlight in the evening with a second blue (moonlight bulb) for effect.

Do not keep the lights on too much and make sure to set up a timer. somewhere between 7-10 hours a day is fine. Set it to be on when you are most likely to be able to enjoy the tank, in the evening perhaps. If you are most active in the room when the lights are off, this may also stress the fish.

Other lighting types most commonly used for marine aquariums are hallogen and metal hallide. These are much brighter and in general not suitable for freshwater tanks without live plants.

It is now possible to buy LED lighting which uses a lot less electricity. These units are currently quite expensive, but I predict that these will rise in poularity and drop in price over coming years.


Moving House
This is a biggie!
Moving house is a stress at the best of times, but having to move a fishtank on the same day can be a nightmare.
However, there are certain tricks to make this less stressful.

Firstly, I am a massive advocate of giving your fish a new house at the same time.
In advance of your move, buy a new fish tank. It is a good idea to change the fish tank every few years anyway, so this is the perfect opportunity.

Having two tanks makes everything much easier for both you and your fish. Next thing is to arrange a crossover of 1-5 days between houses. This may or may not be possible, but even if you have to do it in a day you can now set up the new tank in your new home ready to transfer the fish across.

Set up the new tank in your new home first as early as possible (a week is good if possible). Make sure to take as much water as you can from the old tank. I have a plastic catering grade wine fermenting barrel for this purpose which holds a number of gallons. This will introduce some of the filter bacteria to the new tank and some familiar water balance for the fish. You can collect this water over a period of weeks before the move if you like.

Fill up the new tank in your new home to nearly, but not quite full and turn on your heaters. If you have a spare heater, put that in as well to get the temperature up as quickly as possible if necessary. I recommend keeping your old filters running when they arrive at the new house as these will be primed and will work straight away. Now is not the time to change filters. Be aware that without flow of water/oxygen the filter bacteria will start to die off after a number of hours.

Add a large dose of dechlorinator and aloe remedy to the tank. Biological filter booster syrum is also recommended to kick start the filters again. The fish will be stressed and will dirty the tank quickly on arrival.

The aim is to get the new tank as close as possible to the condiions of the old one (temperature, water quality).

With the new tank set up, you can simply transport the fish in bags (see 'bagging' below) and slowly introduce them into their new home. This will also introduce some more of the old fishtank water and fill the tank to the top.

It only remains then to add any of the plants and bits from the old tank.

You can now dismantle the old tank and sell it on. Keep all the best bits of gear from the two tanks and sell the weakest.




Bagging Fish Properly
If you need to transport fish, good bagging practice is essential.
Get some elastic bands ready and bags big enough to house the fish comfortably.

It is important to fill the bag 1/3 - 1/2 full of water. There must be enough oxygen in the bag or the fish will suffocate.

Rest the bag on the fish tank water and net the fish by species. I find it best to catch mid sized fish first as they can be the hardest to catch and will get increasingly stressed and jumpy as more fish are removed. Two nets can be better than one. The object is to cause the least amount of stress possible.

Once you have a fish in the net, cup your hands around the net and fish, quickly lift the net out of the water and put it into the bag then uncup your hand to release the fish into the bag water.

Large fish should go 1 per bag. Mid size 3-4 per bag and small up to 10.

Next catch the small fish and finally the largest. Big fish can put up a struggle, but their size betrays them and you can usually get them OK.

I had quite a struggle with a school of barbs once when moving house, eventually catching them all followed by all the others. I then put a larger net into the water to catch my sizeable catfish. I was amazed when after watching all this, he deliberately swam straight into the net. It was the third time I had moved him over 10 years, but I was astounded.

Twist a good portion of the top of the bag, loop this over then wrap a couple of elastic bands tightly around this to seal closed.

It is a good idea to insulate the bags with polystyrene. If you ask nicely in your aquarium store, they may be able to give one one or two of the polystyrene boxes that they use for shipping fish. These are great, as they keep the fish in the dark (which is important) and well insulated.

Transport the fish to their new home as quickly as posible.


Introducing New Fish
Introducing fish to a new tank is simple.

I recommend turning the aquarium lights off and floating the fish bags on the surface to allow them to warm up to the same temperature as the tank.

Turning the lights off subdues all the fish and stops too much unwanted interest from the existing inhabitants (if there are any). You may want to leave them off for the rest of the day.

Immediately undo the elastic band ties to let air in and drape the top of the bags over the side of the tank. Start adding small amounts of the new fish tank water into the bags every couple of minutes. This will slightly aclimatize the fish to the new water.

After about half an hour, gently release the fish into the tank making sure that they don't stay in and get stuck in a bag with no water as they may be reluctant to leave the bag at first. Just gently pour the contents in until they have all been released.

If the fish are from a shop, try to put as little of the bag water into your tank as possible. If you are transporting between tanks simply pour the whole lot in.


Cleaning Glass
It is important to keep the fishtank glass clean. If you do not scrub your glass every couple of weeks, it will build up with algae, even in the cleanest of aquariums. It is always nicest to have clean glass anyway, so that you can enjoy your fish to the full.

If you leave the algae on there, it will grow and escalate to the detrement of the tank.

It is very simple and takes one minute to clean. Buy yourself a glass cleaning scrubber. I find that most of the magnetic and fancy glass cleaners are waste of money and take longer to use than a simple scrubber.

Be careful not to scrub away the silicone sealant around the glass joins. This is important, it is fine to have algae growing in the corners of the tanks. I have heard of people causing leaks due to overscrubbing the sealant areas.

The only other thing to bear in mind is that your fish may well be inquisitive and will swim around your hand as you do it. Be careful not to injure them with the scrubber.

Whenever you put your hands in the tank, make sure that you don't have any lotion, detergents, oil or cremes on your hands as these may well be toxic to your fish.


Aquarium Position
Position your aquarium in a place that it will be a feature and easily viewed and enjoyed. It must be in a location where you can easily access it for maintenance and feeding.

The tank must not be near a window or in strong direct sunlight. This will cause excess algae, may overheat the aquarium and may also clash with your lighting timer, giving the aquarium too much light during the day.

It is clearly ideal if the tank is positioned close to electricity supply (that will not be tampered with or unplugged) and also within fairly easy reach of a water supply to make water changes painless.

It is important not to put your fish tank in a busy or confined space that people use. Continual motion close to the tank may well stress the fish, especially at night when the lights are off. Huge shadows passing across the tank can literally petrify the fish. I have seen the contents of a community tank so scared by lots of people around at night time that all of the species school together in a frenzied manner. This is not good.

If you have other pets, especially cats, make sure that they have no access to the top of the tank.

I recommend not having the tank exposed on all sides. It is best for the fish if the back wall of the tank is next to a wall or covered by a mural, so that there is never any movement across 1800 of their vision. Aquariums that are islands in a room or built into walls and viewable from 2 rooms often cause the fish to feel trapped and stressed in the long term. If you really do want to do this as a feature, make sure that there are plenty of hiding spaces in the tank.

One nice aspect of fishtanks is that they can provide a lovely source of side or ambient lighting for a room or hallway. I have a fishtank in my hall, which means that even with the main room lights off, the room is light enough to walk through without having to reach for the light switch. Aquarium lights on a timer can make a house look occupied which may have security benefits and often when I get home, there is already a light on when I walk in the house. As mentioned above, I don't recommend putting your tank in a hallway if it is narrow or confined.



Lifespan of Fish
Fish can live from 2 to 80 years depending on the species. Many catfish can live for more than 20 years. The humble goldfish can live more than 50 if kept well. Many small barbs and standard freshwater species can live more than 10 years. Be aware of this when you buy new fish for your tank.
For more information, see the 'Which Species' section.
It is common for the dominant fish in a school to be the first to die. They tend to eat the most food and as a concequence their lifespan decreases. Once they have been ousted from the top spot, they tend to become reserved, stressed and die.


Algae
Green algae is not to be feared and can be scrubbed away and will also provide extra food for the fish. Most fish will eat a certain amount of algae, often sucking gravels and nipping at the tank contents to scrape off the algae when you are not looking.

Brown red or black algae is a sign that you have poor water quality. If you have brown algae, clean tank elements, do a thorough water change and think about cleaning out your filters.

If the algae is growing into long strands, this is also a sign of deteriorating water quality or too much light in the tank. Make sure to remove any long strands from the tank.

See the 'Cleaning Glass' section.


Going Away on Holiday
From time to time, you will need to leave your aquarium when you go away.
The vast majority of healthy fish can last 10 days or more without food with no problem at all. In the wild, fish are used to periods of little food and periods of plenty.
Most fish will still find food enough to keep them going. They will peck at any algae in the tank.

If you are going away for more than 2 weeks, then get a friend to visit once or twice a week to feed them.
Make sure that they don't overfeed. This is a worst case scenario and don't get them to feed everyday.
The tank will not be cleaned and excess mess will slowly (or quickly) deteriorate the water quality.

Before you go, do a thorough water change and cleanout. Check that all the fish are healthy. In the event that you have a very sick fish when you go, it may (your call) be better to remove it before you go to protect the others.

Double check the timers and electrical safety, so that if there should be a leak, it will not cause an electric fire. Wires should loop below the level of the plug sockets, so that any drips do not enter the live plugs.

Leaving your aquarium for a few days is just fine and not something to worry about.



General Ongoing Maintenance
Take a little bit of regular time to enjoy your fish tank, watch the fish and their behaviour. You can tell if your fish are happy and healthy if they respond to your presence by wanting food. Be aware that fish behaviour may well change when you are present. This can be a good indicator though, if fish hide away when you are around the tank, there may well be a problem. Fish that do not come out for food may well be ill or stressed.

Some species may become a little fiesty with each other if you are present and you do not feed them. I have especially noticed this in Barb species, if you are around for a while the dominant fish may weel want to demonstrate that they are the boss. This is quite ordinary and rarely results in any serious injury. If your fish are seriously hurting each other, then you have a problem and you may want to remove one to balance out the community.

The colouration of your fish is another good indicator of tank and fish health. If your fish are looking pale you may well have a problem.

Check that the filter flow is OK, check the temperature is stable and correct, check that there isn't too much algae. Smell the water to check that there is no decay. If the water smells noticably bad, you probably have a problem.

If you see any large piles of muck, do a water change/ clean asap.


Electrical Safety
See section on 'Aquarium External Furniture, Electrics and Fittings' for more information.


Snails
Snails are a pest to aquariums. You may wish to keep some of the larger aquatic species as they can be quite fun, but do not let the smaller species into your tank if you can help it at all, as they may well reproduce and infest the aquarium. Make sure not to bring back snails from your aquarium shop with fish or live plants. Do a thorough check for snails when buying and before introducing any new members into your tank.


Aeration
Your aquarium must allow enough oxygen into the water for the inhabitants to breathe.
See sections on 'fish tank size' and 'filter types' for more information.


Dead Body Disposal
When your fish die, remove them from the tank asap. As soon as they die, they will start to decompose and even small fish can have very detrimental effects on the health of the fish tank and it's contents if left.

Say a quick thank you for being a good friend and then wrap them and throw them away as refuse. Do not flush them down the toilet as this may introduce unwanted bacteria to our water supplies and sewage systems.

If you wish to bury your loved fish, make sure to bury them well as they will be detected and dug up by other animals such as cats.

 
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