If you choose the types of fish carefully, Tropical Fish are great pets for almost any household. Check out our Tropical Fish care tips for beginners.
You’ve been eyeing the lovely aquarium of tropical fish at a friend’s house or even your dentist’s office, and now you’re thinking you’d like one of your own. If you choose the types of fish carefully, tropical fish are great pets for almost any household.
There’s a trick to keeping a beautiful tank of tropical fish. Here it is, in a nutshell:
- Start with a freshwater tank of 20-50 gallons;
- Set it up with the gravel, filter, plants, “cycling” fluid, rocks, and so on before choosing your fish;
- Allow it to sit and “age” for at least a week;
- Choose an appropriate number of small river fish; and
- Do routine maintenance regularly, instead of waiting for something to go wrong.
Why should you choose river fish for your first fish tank? They are the easiest to keep healthy in a small body of water such as an aquarium. Most popular lake fish and marine critters need the water conditions to remain perfectly stable. River fish can handle fluctuations in acidity and temperature more easily than the others. As a result, adding water to the tank each week or two is less of a risk, you’re less likely to kill your fish be changing the medium in the filter, and a heatwave or sudden winter “cold snap” will be less likely to make your fish sick.
Starting with small fish (specifically, small fish that will stay small) makes sense unless you can afford a truly gigantic tank. Most popular fish need to live in groups, and the fastest way to a smelly, unhealthy mess of a tank is to overcrowd it. One inch of fish-length per gallon of water is a good rule of thumb.
Before choosing your fish, make a trip to the pet store and see what fish appeal to you. Make a list of the names of the fish. Now, go home again and look up these fish on a decent website. How big do they get? For example, black ghost knifefish are beautiful and fascinating, and the little 3″/7cm babies are the cutest fish ever, but do you have room a school of 18″/45cm adults? On the flipside, the cherry barbs and cardinal tetras aren’t going to grow much. If you plan to have more than one kind of fish in your tank, also check how many you’ll need per species (count on at least five, for schooling species) and whether the water requirements are compatible…and whether the fish themselves are compatible.
The bare essentials for keeping tropical fish looks like quite a list, but any pet store that deals in pet fish will have almost everything you need:
- Tank and canopy with light, usually sold as a set;
- Gravel, enough for a depth of at least an inch (2.5cm) in the front and three inches (7cm) in the back;
- Water filter and filter media (which might or might not need a separate water pump), often sold as part of a set with the fish tank;
- Water thermometer and water heater;
- Rocks or ceramic tank ornaments for the fish to hide in or behind (you’ll see them more often if they know they can hide);
- Fish food;
- “Cycling” fluid, which sets up the essential bacteria in the water before the fish move in;
- Water conditioning fluid, which “takes out” the chlorine and chloramines from tap water;
- Fish net of appropriate size for your fish;
- Siphon and hose, to “vacuum” the gravel, and a clean bucket that has never had soap in it (traces of soap will destroy your fishes’ gills) for water changes.