Loving Your Pet: Owning Your First Tank Fish
Caring For Your Tank Fish
If you’ve just bought your very first tank fish, then this guide will give you the relevant and insightful information you need to look after them successfully.
From looking at the equipment you need, as well as diet, tank maintenance, and issues relating to health, we cover it all.
So take a look through the following sections and make sure that you give your new pet the love, care, and attention they deserve so that they can live a happy and fulfilling life.
Before you bring your new fish back home from the pet store, make sure you’ve got the right equipment in place to look after them. The items you purchase will depend on the type of fish tank setup you require.
Take a look at the list below and see if you need to purchase any additional items:
- Tank and stand
- Fish food
- Tank cover
Many of the extras below will make your tank easier to maintain or make it more suited to the type of fish that you own.
- Air pump
- Gravel vacuum
- Water pump
If you are unsure as to whether you need any of the above, it’s advised to speak to the pet supplies store where you bought your fish.
Additional Fish and Water Condition
Perhaps you want your new pet fish to have a few underwater friends to interact with.
Before you buy any other tank fish – make sure you speak to the pet store first to see which species can get along with one another when they’re contained within the same environment.
If you end up with a fish who seeks to dominate the tank through territorial behavior then you could have some real problems.
It’s equally important to ask the pet store if they need to be kept in a freshwater or saltwater aquarium. Some fish will die if the water and PH levels are not sufficient for their biological makeup, so always check first.
Types of Fish
Here’s a look at some of the most common and suitable fish to choose from for your tank:
Cold Water – Freshwater Tank
- Bloodfin Tetra
- White Cloud
- Buenos Aires Tetra
- Pearl Danio
Heated Freshwater Tank
- Black Molly
- Black Skirt Tetra
- Kuhli Loach
- Coral Beauties
- Butterfly Fish
- Watchman Goby
- Talbot’s Damsel
- Chalk Bass
Transferring Fish To Your Tank
Moving your fish from one tank to another can be stressful for them due to unfamiliar surroundings and acclimatizing to differences in water quality. As a result, it’s best to make this transition as quick and smooth as possible.
First and foremost, check that any fish you add (once fully grown) will fit into your aquarium without overcrowding.
Secondly, before you add the fish to your tank, test the water quality. Your chlorine level should be at zero and the pH level should be the same as the shop where you’ve bought your pet from.
Adding decorations, plants and rocks will make the fish feel more secure, as they will be able to hide if they feel threatened at any point during the transition.
Adding your fish
Once all of the above has been carried out, you will be ready to add the fish to your tank. Follow these five steps for a successful transition:
1) Gently place the bag that your fish is in on the surface of the water
2) Let the bag float for approximately ten minutes
3) Open the bag slightly and carefully add some of the aquarium water inside using a cup
4) Wait another ten minutes for the fish to adapt to the water change
5) Repeat this process until the bag is full and then use a net to move them from the bag and into the tank
Make sure you don’t add any of the water from the bag into your aquarium during this phase.
Once they are inside the tank, it may also be worth turning off the aquarium lights for a while, so that they can acclimatize quicker, in their own time.
Get in the habit of cleaning and maintaining your fish tank on a regular basis. A clean tank with fresh water will make your pet more active and ensure they live a healthy and happy life. It will also make it easier and more enjoyable for you to spot and watch your fish moving through the water.
Follow these simple maintenance tips to keep your tank in tip-top condition.
This will always be present wherever light is combined with water, however, it’s possible to control and prevent the rapid build-up of algae.
Use an abrasive pad or magnet to remove it from the glass surfaces and the decorations contained within your tank. You may also wish to use special scrapers, which feature plastic or metal blades.
Another solution to avoiding a large amount of algae forming is to carry out frequent water changes or add algae-eating fish to your tank.
The primary purpose of changing the water is to dilute the pollutants and harmful levels of nitrate and ammonia that have formed over time.
Using a water filter breaks down chemicals, although if left long enough, higher levels of nitrate will produce large amounts of algae and can even kill your fish if they are too high.
On top of this, phosphate levels can build up from fish waste and food, and in extreme cases, if the water becomes too acidic it could cause pH collapse, which will be disastrous for most fish.
The best way to change your water is to use a self-starting siphon tube. Use this to slowly drain the water from your tank into a bucket and only remove small sections at a time. Use a thermometer to also monitor the temperature of your tank water and check that the conditions are safe for your fish.
Avoid removing all of the water or taking the tank levels too low, as this will get rid of the beneficial bacteria and can potentially cause quality issues. Only remove 25-30% of the existing water, reducing this any further can shock the fish and could lead to illnesses such as Ich (see Disease and Infections).
Water can then be added back into the aquarium via a spigot, or a small bucket if this is not available. As you are topping up the levels, make sure you add de-chlorinator if you have chlorine in your water source. In the case where you are using a bucket, this can be done before you add the water back into the tank.
Vacuuming the gravel
This process can be completed during a water change and is designed to remove the dirt and debris contained within the gravel.
It’s best to buy a gravel vacuum that combines a siphon tube so that you don’t need to suck the pipe to get it started. These designs are also more efficient and powerful to use.
The vacuum works by removing lighter debris into a tube before the heavier gravel is dropped back down.
Use the vacuum over the whole of the surface to clean the tank bed and to remove debris that may contain nitrate and phosphate, which can cause parasites to form. It’s a quick job that can make all the difference to your pet’s quality of life.
Cleaning the filter
Over time your filter is likely to become clogged, and if it does this will have an impact on how well it can perform. It’s vital that the filter works properly as this will keep your fish healthy and your water flows consistently.
If you have a mechanical filter, you will need to clean the sponge or pad using the tank water. This might not make it smell very fresh, but it will ensure that the fish won’t need to adjust to any major water differences.
Here’s a brief outline of what to do:
- Unplug the filter to avoid shocking yourself when cleaning it
- Clean the sponges or pads and get rid of all of the build-up and gunk (wear gloves if you don’t like making contact with the water)
- Use a filter cleaning brush to clean the casing and tubes
- Replace the sponge or pad
- Add the filter back to the tank
You don’t want to leave the filter off for too long, so make sure that this process is completed within five minutes once every four weeks.
Also, check that that it’s working sufficiently once it’s back in place and if not, take look and see if it’s clogged. If it’s still not functioning properly after this, then it may be time for a new filter.
Feeding your fish properly will help them to avoid infection and ensure they maintain good health.
When it comes to diet, it’s important to know which types of food your fish needs and how much they should consume.
On the whole, fish only need to be fed once a day and the portion sizes won’t need to be very large either. These pets are remarkable creatures as they can take the nutrients they need from the food they consume in around two minutes.
Any food that remains in your tank after a feed can decay and lead to poor water quality, which is why it’s important to vacuum the gravel on a frequent basis (see Tank Maintenance).
Both live and processed food can be given as part of a stable, sufficient and balanced diet.
A large proportion of fish will feed on live food that exists in your tank. This includes plants, microorganisms floating on the surface of the water, and algae.
Pet stores can also supply insects, such as snails and worms, or insect larvae, which are both ideals for providing the fish with the nutrients they need.
Pet stores will also sell frozen and canned processed foods, such as shrimp, squid, and vegetables.
Processed food can form part of their diet too and because these foods are frozen, it reduces the risk of any diseases transferring from the food to the fish.
Worms, insect larvae and meats are available in the freeze-dried format, although using food that’s been stored in this way isn’t ideal, as it can strip the vitamins and nutrients out.
A perfect and sufficient option for a stable fish diet, canned foods are available in the following:
As variety is the spice of life, make sure that you feed your fish a range of foods from the above. Too much of the same food may not give your pet the nutritional value they require and so a balanced and consistent diet is far more beneficial.
Disease and Infections
It’s advised to keep a close eye on your tank fish and check on a regular basis that they haven’t caught any form of virus or infection.
Just like any other pet, your fish can fall ill too, so spotting signs early will mean that treatment can be issued and recovery can begin sooner rather than later.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most common illnesses, along with their symptoms, so you know exactly what to look out for.
White or grey fluffy patches on the body that look like cotton or clouds.
Scratching against objects, white or green threads coming from the fish’s skin and patches of inflammation.
Bath freshwater fish in a seawater bath (35ppt) for 5 minutes a day until the worms fall off and die.
A layer of mucus covering the body, fast movement of gills, red skin, and scratching against objects.
Anti-body flukes treatment.
Fin, tail, mouth rot
Pink and white patches which give the impression that the infected area is wearing away. Fish appear lethargic and have a loss of appetite.
Anti-fin rot treatment – the infected area can normally be cured and returned to its original state.
Raised scales, loss of appetite and lethargic.
Fins are folded against the body and fish display a lack of energy.
Test water quality to make sure the conditions are right. If they’re sufficient, obtain a suitable clamed fin treatment.
Red spots and inflammation, fish appears restless and aggravated, dark oval-shaped spots crawling on fish.
Physically remove the parasites and clean the wound with iodine, or bath freshwater fish in a seawater bath (35ppt) for 5 minutes a day until the lice fall off.
Spots on the body that look like grains of sand or salt, clamped fins, gasping at the surface of the water.
When using a treatment, make sure you have purchased the correct one for the illness or infection that your fish was caught. Remember to also take a look at the instructions so that you can issue the required dosage you need to nurse the fish back to full health.