Before you start fishkeeping as a hobby, multiple things need consideration. Just because you like watching fish swirling and dancing in the water, you should not get an aquarium.
In this guide, we will explain what, how, and why you should research to understand if fishkeeping is for you.
Most beginners start their journey believing that fish is one of the easiest pets and can be raised without hassle. On the contrary, it is one of those hobbies that require intense research at every step until you get expertise.
Right from buying a tank and picking the right species to selecting plants and fish food, everything requires thorough knowledge. It is important because one wrong step can complicate many things, and your precious fish may die.
Many myths are associated with fish keeping, and people swear by them. For instance, ‘fish only grow to the size of their tank,’ ‘fish can live in a fish bowl,’ ‘you need to change the water daily,’ fish don’t live long, etc. However, only a little truth lies in these statements.
Therefore, here we are to help you understand what fishkeeping is and what you need to know before starting an aquarium. Even though you can find a lot of information from pet shops, it is better to know a few things beforehand to ensure what to ask while buying anything and not to get confused.
A pet shop can offer general advice and guidance, but what makes you a pro in fishkeeping is combined knowledge, debunked myths, and a thorough understanding. The goal of pet shops is to sell their animals, and in that quest, they may deliver information that may prove erroneous in the long term.
This article is focused on newcomers who want to start their journey of fishkeeping hobby. It will help them understand why it is essential to research and what they need to research to obtain the best result.
Things that require special attention
Don’t get an aquarium just because you like fish. Just like raising kids, fish also require special attention and conditions to survive. Therefore, a few things that you need to research before fishkeeping are-
- Nitrogen Cycle- The conversion of ammonia to nitrite to nitrate and finally into nitrogen gas is a nitrogen cycle that involves denitrifying bacteria. Accumulated fish excreta, leftover food, plant debris, etc., make the tank’s water toxic. It is when the nitrogen cycle helps detoxify the water, making it suitable for fish.
Since it is important, you should know everything about the nitrogen cycle- how it helps and what parts are needed to install for an effective nitrogen cycle.
- Fishless Cycle– Another important part is the fishless cycle that helps fish acclimate to the new environment. It recreates the biological activity to ensure the nitrogen cycle works appropriately and fish adjusts accordingly.
Both these cycles have high importance as they ensure the following:
- The well-being of your fish
- What’s happening in the tank
- Ways to pinpoint issues in the tank
- Ways to rectify the problems
- Reverse poor water quality
As you understand all the above, it ensures the fish thrives well and stays happy and healthy in the water.
- Tap water conditions- Are you considering adding tap water directly into your tank? Do you know its parameters? Have you researched your fish and aquatic plants’ water requirements?
Usually, beginners believe they can add tap water to their tank without treatment or adjustment. However, it is essential to understand that you should have stable water conditions for the livestock to thrive.
You can get a quality water testing kit and check certain parameters like:
- pH- to know the water’s acidity or alkalinity and adjust it as per the fish and plants’ requirements
- GH- to understand how much-dissolved mineral content is present in the water
- KH- to get an idea of the carbonate level
- Nitrate and nitrite levels- to keep water safe for fish
While some species can tolerate acidic water to some extent, some die off immediately. It is the reason why pH holds so much importance. It should be within the specified range so that fish, as well as aquatic plants, can thrive.
Likewise, nitrate is also present in the water. Having a low level of nitrate is a good sign for aquatic species. At the same time, it is one of those parameters that can be easily adjusted. However, you need to know the right ways to adjust nitrate levels; therefore, thorough research in this section is also necessary.
Importance of knowing water conditions
Many fish species are suitable for fishkeeping hobby; however, the water requirement of each of them may vary. It is mainly because they may have originated in different geographical and geological parts of the world. While some are found in free-flowing rivers, others in lakes and ponds.
Different parameters decide the requirements of species, such as local water conditions, types of rocks over which the water flows, surrounding area, etc. Since the species have been evolved and adapted to certain water conditions, it is important to provide them the same in the aquarium to survive. Sudden changes in water parameters may put fish in shock and stress, causing death.
So, keep the water parameters of your fish handy to help them acclimatize easily and flourish in your tank.
- Common and scientific names- Even though this section may not seem so important, it holds a prominent place because not knowing the common and scientific names may create a lot of confusion.
Many fish species are known by different local names, so when you approach a pet store, you may not find the fish with the name you know; however, it could be present in their stock. Therefore, apart from knowing the specific requirements of every fish species, you should be well aware of their common as well as scientific names.
- Species-specific information- Another essential aspect that needs your heed is detailed information about every fish species you intend to include in your tank. It includes information like-
- What is the maximum adult size of the fish
- How long will the fish live, or what is its average lifespan
- How does the fish look when it is in the juvenile and adult stage
- How does a specie feel when living between the same species of fish
- What is the compatibility of specie with other water species
- What are its preferred tank mates
- From which environment are you bringing the fish
- Where did the specie originate from
- What are fish’s water requirements with regard to temperature, pH, GH, etc.
- What are the eating habits
- When and how much it eats
- What are its ways of reproduction
- How does it react with fry or eggs
These are some key factors that a hobbyist must consider before getting a fish for an aquarium. Let’s find out how these factors may affect your choice.
One of the common myths is fish develop only up to the side of the tank. It is not true because some adult fish may outgrow your tank and cause many problems- for you and your tank mates.
It is recommended to research the potential adult size of your fish to decide your tank size. If you have already bought a tank, make sure you check how much the selected fish species may grow after a few months.
If the adult fish size may seem bigger than what you have expected, it is better not to consider it. A large full grown adult fish will struggle to survive in small size tanks. Also, the other fish species will find it difficult to accommodate this large one. So, make your choice correctly.
Apart from researching the full-grown adult size of your preferred fish species, you should also research the size of your tank and how many fish should be accommodated in a particular-sized tank. This information will help you make the right decisions while selecting tanks and fish.
Lifespan of Fish
When it comes to fish lifespan, it is your commitment that matters. When you are keeping fish, you should take care of them because many ill practices may make your fish sick, causing them to die sooner.
The average lifespan of fish is considered between three to five years; however, in certain conditions, it may vary. Goldfish, for instance, may live up to fifteen to twenty years happily and healthily. Likewise, Koi fish can live up to forty years.
If you provide a healthy diet and maintain proper water conditions, the fish will live cheerfully for its entire lifespan. But, when fish are not taken care of properly, often encountered to sudden changes in water parameters and poorly fed- they fall sick and die sooner.
Fish health may compromise under uncertain conditions or when unforeseen circumstances crop up. Still, efforts should be made to cope with them and help your fish complete its expected lifespan.
It is one of the most important aspects of fishkeeping that need thorough knowledge. Since different fish species have different places of origin, their requirements vary too. Clubbing fish species with far-apart water requirements is not a good choice.
In this case, it is better to prepare a sheet and jot down the basic requirements of your preferred species, such as- range of pH, GH, temperature, etc. Once you know under what water parameters your selected fish species thrive, it will become easy to club species with almost similar requirements.
If the temperature range falls between 20 to 25 degree Celsius, maintaining anywhere between 23 degrees will work. Likewise, in the case of pH, GH, etc., you need to maintain the proper conditions for the best result.
Keeping fish outside their normal range for longer hours may cause issues like:
- Poor immune system
- Lack of appetite
- Poor growth
- Difficulty in regulating salts and fluids in the body
Therefore, researching fish needs and fulfilling them is one important aspect of fishkeeping that every hobbyist should abide by.
Fish Compatibility or Living with other fish species
Usually, fish love to live in shoal or school- that is, in a herd. However, you should know if they are compatible with fish of the same specie and how they react when clubbed with fish from other species.
Some fish species cannot tolerate conspecifics, that is, fish of the same species, such as Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens. In this case, the male fish are extremely territorial and can go to any level to protect their boundaries.
On the contrary, some fish species love gelling up with their conspecifics as it makes them feel happy and safe. So, make mindful choices while selecting the fish species and shoaling them.
Things to consider while shoaling fish
- You have to keep at least five to six fish together for shoaling. So, make sure there is enough room in your tank to keep six adults at a time.
- Adding a fish from some other species in a tank with a shoal may subject the loner to bullying.
- Shoaling fish can spread diseases to one another quickly. So, keep an eye on each of them, and if one seems stressed or sick, put it in another tank for treatment.
Points to consider while selecting tank mates
Choosing the right tank mates takes you one step closer to creating a happy and healthy environment in the aquarium. In this regard, here are some points that need introspection-
Are your fish predatory?
Some fish species love snacking on other smaller fish species, especially those that can’t protect themselves. Similarly, some species love nipping at the long fins.
For instance, there is a high chance that chichlids would munch on smaller fish, even if the two are kept together since they were babies and seems best friends. At the same time, tiger barbs often nip the long fins of guppies, giving them a hard time coping. So, such combinations are not recommended.
Does your fish bully others?
Some fish species are aggressive and often bully the peaceful ones. Nudging and jolting are fun practices for such species that put the life of weaker ones at stake.
Is your fish extremely territorial?
Certain species fight their life off to protect their territories or for food. Likewise, some fish prefer the perfect male to female ratio to sustain happily.
These are some essential things that need your attention. It is important to understand how your fish behaves and what their nature is when it comes to tank mates. Ensuring stocking the right species will prevent issues like fish injuries and losses.
Fish’s Place of Origin
It is very important that the fish owner knows the place of origin of the fish. It will help understand the best environment to be recreated for fish survival.
For instance, a fish might have originated in a country with tropical conditions and require the same ambiance in the tank. In the same way, it may prefer slow-moving rivers or fast-flowing streams.
Apart from this, some fish are shell dwellers and look for a particular substrate in the tank to dwell into. Also, some love having coconut shells or tiny hiding holes that can be recreated with decor items.
Likewise, some fish species love to be surrounded by aquatic plants, while others prefer barren substrate with no interference other than a few aquarium rocks. Some are shy in nature and like having plenty of hiding spots or places for spawning.
So, researching only the place of origin of a fish can help predict its behavior and special requirements to a great extent. It can also give an idea about the fish’s eating preferences.
Once you know what fish prefer and what they do not, it helps collect the best decor items, food products, aquatic plants, substrate, and other things in the right ways.
Food is one of the necessities to live. When it comes to pets, knowing what, when and how much to feed is essential. You need to research the dietary requirements of your fish so that it can thrive healthily.
Fish are also categorized into herbivorous, carnivorous, and omnivorous based on their food preferences.
While some fish are opportunistic feeders, others munch on everything that comes their way. You need to understand that fish that feed only on selected food may starve to death in severe cases.
Apart from knowing what to feed, you should also know how much to feed your little dancing creatures in the aquarium. Feeding little but after regular intervals to small fish is a good idea as it will help them grow and develop. At the same time, giving larger quantities will only end up in accumulating a lot of leftover food that will make water toxic.
So, how much you need to give depends upon the fish species, their age, and size. There is a small line between underfeeding and overfeeding, and understating it is of utmost importance to keep the fish well-fed and healthy.
We can understand this section with the example of goldfish. Even though goldfish are small but they have a big appetite. So, if you are giving food only on the basis of fish size, your fish may remain underfed. Therefore, deep research regarding fish food is very important.
Fish could be livebearers or lay eggs. Usually, the livebearers breed frequently, giving a large number of babies. So, if you have all the livebearers in your tank, make sure you have enough space to accommodate the little fry.
An overstocked tank is a problematic one, giving rise to many problems. So, you should be well aware of how your fish spawn, its frequency, and the approximate number of fry it gives.
Additionally, you should know the behavior of your fish while spawning. Some females tend to become too aggressive during the process and often get injuries when shown interest by the males.
In such cases, you need to prepare a spare tank and separate males and females to allow peaceful spawning. So, dig a little deeper while choosing your fish species and stocking them to avoid any conflicts during the reproduction phase.
- Equipment- Until you have no idea about the essential and not-so-essential equipment for your aquarium, you may end up getting faulty results. Therefore, thoroughly investigating the important equipment for the tank is necessary.
Even though it may seem a little daunting to beginners, aquarium equipment holds an important place for all kinds of setups. Whether it is about equipment like filters, pumps, lighting, or aquarium stands or lids, you should know what is important for your tank and what’s not.
You may see a number of aquarium equipment in a pet shop, and the shopkeeper would love to sell all of them. Here, you should have enough knowledge about the functionality of each of them and whether your tank needs them or not.
Some enthusiastic hobbyists buy all the equipment, including the non-required ones, and end up emptying their pockets. So, once you grab knowledge about the types of equipment and their uses, you won’t be fooled by the pet shop owners.
You should remember that investing in high-quality equipment is always a good idea rather than getting something for a lesser price that damages quickly. So, make a calculative decision before you go to buy aquarium equipment.
Now that you know fishkeeping is not a cakewalk, make a wise decision. If you are getting an aquarium and setting it up with your favorite fish and aquatic plants, do not forget that it is going to be a long-term commitment. Don’t bring any pet home on the basis of your temporary interest. Your tank will consume more time than you think, especially when you are a beginner.
However, if you are really keen to pet the beautiful and colorful swirling creatures in the water, research in advance and come up with all the ifs and buts. Get those lovelies from the pet shop or buy them online and take care of them until they complete their lifespan healthily.
Always remember to make fish and aquariums your priority. Research from some reliable sources and take advice from experts in the industry. Follow the best practices and enjoy a gala time with your fish.
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