Starting Out In Tropical Fishkeeping

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A well designed, fully stocked aquarium is a very attractive feature, and watching fish swim relaxes the mind! But before you venture out into keeping tropical fish, ensure you have enough money at hand, as there are quite a few things you will be buying: a glass tank with lid, a fluorescent bulb, an under-gravel filter, an air pump with plastic tubing and airstones, an attractive background strip for the tank, fish food, a heater, a thermometer, a fish net, a wide-diameter flexible tube (useful for draining water out of the tank), rocks, gravel, warm water plants and Aquasafe (or another such chemical - for de-chlorinating tap water).
Take a trip to the best local pet shop and have a wander round to get an idea of how much everything will cost.
Then get ready to take the plunge! Before you buy any fish, set up the tank with the under-gravel filter in place, topped with a fairly deep layer of washed gravel (wash it beforehand or your water will end up mucky!), rocks, etc.
Install the water heater, the air pump & lines, and fix the decorative backing to the tank.
Make sure that before you put anything in the tank (filter, gravel, etc), that the tank is positioned in a suitable location, and on top of a foam lining or thick blanket.
This is to prevent the glass bottom of the tank cracking due to any unevenness in the surface on which the tank is placed.
The tank will be heavy when full, so locate it somewhere safe where there is no possibility of any instability or failure in the supporting structure.
Many tanks come with an optional supporting stand or cabinet.
When you have set up the tank in the desired location, fill it up with tap water which has been appropriately treated (e.
by using Aquasafe).
Turn on the air line and water heater.
Then wait for at least 3 weeks before buying any fish.
After a day, check that the temperature of the water is between about 75 and 82 F (24-28 C).
A temperature of 77 F (25C) is ideal.
Adjust the thermostat on the water heater if necessary to achieve this temperature.
After 3 weeks, you are then ready to buy some fish.
A wise tactic is to start with only a handful of fish (i.
5 or 6), then if these survive you can slowly add more.
You will need a fairly local pet store to buy the fish from, to prevent the water cooling too much during your return journey (as this will kill off the fish).
Setting up a fishtank during the summer months is ideal, as this will make it easier to transport fish safely without the risk of water cooling.
Alternatively, run the heater in your car for a short while before you go to buy the fish, to create a warm atmosphere.
When you have brought the fish back home, place the bags in the water and wait for about 20 minutes to enable the temperature to equalize.
Then open the bags and carefully empty them, with the fish, into the tank.
You should keep the fluorescent light on for most of the day, but you can switch it off at night.
Feed the fish once a day, at the same time each day if possible.
If a fish dies, take it out of the water as soon as possible.
Initially, check every day to make sure no fish have died.
Every few weeks, do a partial water change.
Don't allow any plants to clog up the tank.
Plants such as Elodea grow very quickly, and will need cutting back.
You can throw away the excess plant growth or donate it to a fellow fish enthusiast! If you are having problems with fish dying, check the quality of the water.
You can buy a testing kit or take a couple of water samples to your local pet store to get them checked.
Happy fishkeeping!
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