Common mistakes new Aquarists make

Making mistakes is human nature. However, it is these blunders and errors that make a person perfect. Isn’t it? No matter what you start, facing some issues in the initial stage is normal and when it comes to fish-keeping, facing few slip-ups are obvious.

Right from the selection of apt tank to maintaining the water quality- there are a number of issues which a new aquarist has to deal with. So today we will describe some of the most common mistakes people make while setting up their aquarium. We hope that it will assist in making their life easy and guide to deal with the common dilemmas.

Selecting the wrong size tank

Getting a tank is the first step in having an aquarium. If this goes wrong, nothing will go right. Therefore, you have to be extra cautious in selecting the right tank especially the right size. While choosing the correct size, you have to decide the location of placing your tank. It is important to have enough open space and legroom to perform essential activities like feeding the fish, checking water parameters, cleaning, etc.

Do not go for a very small tank as it may restrain the growth and development of fish and plants. Likewise, do not pick too large tank if you are not able to maintain it. Although it will give enough space for the fish to swirl and plants to flourish, maintenance could become troublesome. Therefore, choose wisely.

Overstocking the tank

In the excitement of having an aquarium, generally, new aquarists stock up their tank with a lot of fish. It is quite understandable that you want all the best fish in your tank but overstocking could do more harm than help. A lot of fish means a lot of fish waste. The filters need to be capable enough to deal with all these waste accumulations. If it is not, the level of ammonia and nitrates will rise to the extent that you may lose your fish forever.

Moreover, overstocking will not give enough space for all the fish to enjoy swirling and swimming. Other than this, it has been seen that people add fish immediately after filling the tank with water. Here, you need to have patience and let a cycle of filtration completes. You may cycle the tank before adding the fish with bottled bacteria.

Selecting the wrong fish for the tank

There is a variety of fish available to culture in an aquarium. It is advised not to fall for the fish just by its looks. You have to consider a lot of things before getting one for your tank. Some of the points to keep in mind are:

  • Do not buy fish that may outgrow the size of your tank – When you go to the fish store, mostly you will see the fish in its juvenile phase. You love its color and cuteness and immediately purchase it only to experience later that it outgrows your tank’s size. Once the fish outgrow, it will come under stress due to the small size of tank. The chances of ammonia level rising will increase as well. All this will make the fish unhappy and stressed. Therefore, it is always better to research about fish than regret later.
  • Add compatible fish – This is again one of those areas of fish-keeping which require proper research. If you keep on adding fish without thinking whether they will be compatible with each other or not, you might suffer later. You can get details of fish and make a compatibility chart that compares the behavioral pattern of different fish with each other. Species that live happily together are best to consider in one tank. Apart from behavior, you also have to keep an eye on their water requirements like pH, temperature. If the requirements fall under almost the same range, get them inside your aquarium without giving any second thought.
  • Installing the wrong filter

While choosing the filtration system, you have to look at the water volume in the tank. Every filter comes with a rating which tells how much volume of water it can run through it every hour. If you select a wrong filter, it will not be able to intoxicate the entire tank. Once the water parameters get unstable and unsafe, the fish might suffer significantly. Therefore, always spend money on getting a high-grade water filtration system and make sure you check its rating.

Not checking on the water parameters

As soon as the tank starts running, people tend to sit back and relax without giving a thought to testing the water parameters every few days. It welcomes a lot of problems. The change in water parameters is not visible through eyes, but stressful fish are. Therefore, it is essential you to not only check the water parameters once in a while but also make sure that they are up to the mark.

Invest in a good testing kit and know how to use them to check the different parameters of water. The level of ammonia, nitrates, pH- all needs to be accurate for the betterment of fish.

Not scheduling tank maintenance

Like every machine, your fish tank also requires regular maintenance, the absence of which makes it messy. The water quality may reduce, the glass could become dirty and different decorative items may get grimy. Therefore, checking regularly as for how they look and scheduling their upkeep is a must. While some of the activities may wait for a month, some may require a weekly checkup. Some points to keep in mind are:

  • Changing the water- It is recommended to replace at least 20% of water on a weekly basis if you have a small or medium size tank. Larger tanks may wait for a month. Ensuring water parameters to be stable is also important here.
  • Cleaning the substrate- When you change the water, you can clean the substrate as well. Always prefer a good quality of aquarium substrate as well as substrate cleaning vacuum system to make the cleaning task easier.Overreacting on the blunders

Seeing an issue with the water, plants or fish might cause panic, but you need to remain calm in such situations. You might face more problems in the initial stages than later. During the first cycle or while adding fish, you might experience large swings in water parameters. Do not panic. Take your time and see how things are going in the tank. Are the fish looking stressed? Are the parameters still not within the range? Look carefully and make the smart move. Deal with the mistakes before they cost you your precious fish.


It is no surprise that you make errors while setting up your first aquarium. But remember, hits and trails could only make you perfect in fish keeping. Once you gain enough experience, you will be able to get the perfect aquarium with beautiful plants and fish flourishing together.

Learn from your mistakes and become capable enough to guide future aquarists.

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