A freshwater aquarium requires a lot of careful planning and preparation. Following this guide will help you investigate your options before you begin to setup your tank.
Although some things can be changed as you go it is always best to have some goals in mind from the beginning. The aquatic journey will be a more enjoyable one knowing what awaits you at the end of the path.
It is unfortunate that 80% of new aquarium owners have given up on their hobby after only a year. It is accepted that this is mainly due to frustrations caused by inexperience and lack of reliable information. Consider the following issues before making any fish tank purchase and you will be in a better position to enjoy your hobby now and well into the future.
Tropical or Coldwater Aquarium?
The temperature range of your aquarium will influence the variety and number of fish you can keep. Tropical and cold water aquariums each have their own benefits and detractions.
Coldwater aquariums do not require a heating device. This minimizes electricity costs in most situations. In areas of extreme temperature an aquarium cooling unit may be required during warmer months.
The varieties of ornamental aquarium fish suited to this temperature are limited. Different strains of goldfish may be the only readily available fish in your region. Whatever type you choose, the coldwater aquarium can support fewer fish numbers compared to a tropical aquarium.
Tropical aquariums require a heating device to warm the water. This will be your main ongoing electrical cost. In many subtropical and tropical locations this might not seem necessary. It is still advised to use an aquarium heater to prevent temperature fluctuations however.
Freshwater tropical species are by far the most popular and abundant aquarium fish varieties. In the tropical aquarium a denser population is possible when compared to a cold water set up.
The relative ease with which coldwater fish can be kept makes them an excellent choice for the first time aquarium owner. Goldfish are the perfect choice and are available in a range of unique varieties.
First Aquarium Fish
All aquarium fish require some level of attention but others are notably temperamental. Choosing fish with relatively simple requirements is a simple step to reducing heartache. African lake cichlids are notorious for their sensitivity to ammonia. Discus do not adapt well to new aquariums in many circumstances. Leaving out such exotic aquarium varieties is advised until fish keeping competencies have been gained.
Careful research should always be undertaken to determine a particular species requirements. A rough guide to choosing an easy fish is the price. Harder to keep aquarium fish often demand the highest price to offset the cost involved in breeding them.
Goldfish and guppies are commonly recommended to the first time fish keeper. Some other aquarium fish to consider are the swordtail, molly or platy. All of these are livebearers with similar requirements as the guppy. Paradise fish are a relative of the gourami and Siamese fighter fish that can tolerate a wide range of conditions. The hardy convict is a possible choice from the cichlid family. The common Australian native species of rainbow fish are also generally simple to maintain in the aquarium.
The size that a given fish grows should be considered when selecting your aquarium. Although the size of the aquarium will limit the growth, you should not treat fish as bonsai plants. An elm tree can live for 100's of years in a tiny pot but a giant gourami will need a larger aquarium as it grows to maturity.
Frustrated oscars and other cichlids may grow large enough to smash the thin glass of smaller aquariums. If the fish you choose is a large growing variety, be prepared to buy a larger tank or trade your fish in someday. That is unless you start with a large aquarium in the first place!
Community tanks are aquariums where the fish have been chosen to live together peacefully. By selecting compatible species social harmony can be achieved. Choosing the right aquarium species may take some research but general rules often apply.
Fish known to be aggressive pose problems in the community aquarium. Oscars and other large growing cichlids can only be housed with other large cichlids in a community tank. When attempting too keep a number of aggressive fish it is best that the different species are introduced to one another from a young age. Also remember that the larger the aquarium is the less reason aggressive fish will have to fight.
Placid natured aquarium fish can often be kept together without incident. This includes most livebearers and rainbow fish which usually get on together fine. A bristlenose catfish is always welcome in such an aquarium. There can always be exceptions however.
A sick fish may be harassed to death by its own species if it is showing weakness. Isolation or removal of the fish in question is best for the whole aquarium community. If a hospital tank is not available then partition the main aquarium and treat the whole tank. A sheet of glass or a breeder net will give the sick fish it's own space.
Fish size is also very important for a peaceful aquarium. Even the most well mannered swordtail can become a predator when presented with a bite size companion. Matching aquarium fish of equal or similar size will reduce fish losses due to feeding habits.
Some fish species like to cause problems even if they are relatively small. Long finned angelfish are often prone to harassment by some tetras. The damage may be minimal at first but will accumulate to show as frayed fins where aquarium diseases can take hold.
Many schooling fish require the company of their own species for normal behaviour. Aquarium fish such as cardinal tetras crave the company of their own kind and will sulk when left alone. If the fish you choose tends to swim in a school it is best to acquire several of it's kind for your aquarium.
Plants for Aquariums
Aquarium plants can add a further dimension to your aquarium. Planted aquariums are pleasing to the eye but also serve further purposes. Fish may find planted areas a comforting refuge. Plants may be crucial to spawning in some fish species. Aquarium plants also remove nitrogen compounds from the water to improve water quality. These benefits must be considered for a given situation however.
Plants are not compatible with every aquarium. The set up must meet the plant's individual requirements for it to flourish. Aquarium water chemistry, light, nutrients and gases are crucial in the right quantities for vigorous plant growth. Choose plants with similar requirements for easiest management.
Furthermore the way in which a given fish species interacts with a particular plant can limit it's suitability. Some cichlids will shift around large quantities of aquarium gravel uprooting vegetation. Many aquarium plants are a tasty meal for herbivorous and omnivorous fish. Both problems can be frustrating.
Advanced Aquarium Planning
For the experienced aquarium owner further possibilities are possible. For those aquarists up for the challenge a biotope aquarium may be your cup of tea. Such aquariums are planned around a specific geographical region.
Planning an Aquarium Final Note
Once you have answered these questions for yourself and finished your fish tank planning it is time to set up your fish tank. Don't rush out yet and start looking for some blue guppies to match the sofa though. Your aquarium will need a period of maturation before it is safe for most fish. This will ensure that your aquarium water is free of ammonia.