Aquarium fish care guide(basic and advanced care - from water to automatic fish feeders)
In this article we will take a look at three very important aspects of successful fish keeping: water quality, water chemistry and feeding. If you manage to get these three things right, you are well on your way towards a well functioning aquarium with thriving inhabitants.
When aquarists talk about water quality they are normally referring to the amount of organic waste products in the water, particularly ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Keeping the water quality high is the same thing as keeping the level of organic waste low. There are many things that you can do to prevent the water quality from dropping, such as:
- Always cycle a new aquarium properly. During cycling, beneficial colonies of bacteria will colonise suitable environments, such as gravel and sponge filters. I strongly recommend reading a more detailed article about cycling and cycling methods before you set up an aquarium, because it can save you a lot of money and trouble in the long run. Unfortunately, quite a few fish shops still claim that all you have to do is to let the water sit for 24 hours and add some magical potion before you start stocking your tank full with fish.
- Ideally purchase a test-kit that will allow you to check the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. This will be especially helpful during the cycling process.
- Don’t crowd the aquarium. The more fish per gallon of water, the harder it will be to keep the water quality up. Be especially careful with messy eaters.
- Don’t overfeed. Uneaten food should be removed after each feeding session, unless it is live food. Also keep in mind that the more food you give your fish, the more waste products they will produce.
- Carry out regular water changes.
- Include live plants in the set up, because they will bind organic waste products. Remove dead and decaying plants immediately, because as they die they will release the waste products back into the water.
When aquarists talk about water chemistry, they are usually concerned with the pH-value and water hardness of the water.
The pH-value will tell you how acidic or alkaline a solution is. Pure water at 25 °C (77 °F) has a pH-value of 7.0, also known as neutral. If the pH-value is lower, the solution is acidic. If the pH-value is higher, the solution is alkaline.
The water hardness will tell you how high the mineral content in the water is. Soft water has a low mineral content, while hard water has a high mineral content. A high mineral content is for instance common in areas where the water comes in contact with limestone and chalk.
Different fish species will appreciate different pH-values and water hardness and it is therefore a good idea to research the particular species you are interested in and avoid keeping species with dissimilar preferences in the same aquarium. Common beginner species are usually quite adaptive and can normally be kept in ordinary tap water (as long as you avoid the extremes), but as soon as you begin keeping less flexible species you need to know the pH-value and hardness of your tap water. Your local fish store can usually help you out. If you wish to keep a species that won’t thrive in your tap water, I recommend reading a detailed article about how to change pH-value and water hardness because giving a fish its preferred water chemistry will make it much easier to care for in captivity.
The best way of finding out what to feed your fish is to research what the species eats in the wild. A predatory fish should for instance be given a high-protein diet in the aquarium, while an herbivore fish needs food with a high fibre content, such as algae and vegetables. You don’t have to mimic the diet exactly. A fish that feeds on aquatic plants in the wild will for instance usually readily accept spinach, lettuce and similar in the aquarium and predatory fish species will usually attack all sorts of suitably sized animals that they would never encounter in the wild.
Learning more about the wild habits of your species will also give you a clue about how often you should feed it. A predatory fish species that only catches prey a few times per week in the wild should be fed scarcely in the aquarium, and this type of fish will typically be able to go over a week without food now and then without problem. A fish that spends all day munching down titbits in the wild, e.g. many algae eating species, should on the other hand be fed several times a day because it is not adapted to stuffing its belly full and then go without food for the rest of the day. If you don’t have time to feed your fish several times a day, you can purchase an automatic feeder. An automatic feeder will also come in handy if you need to leave your house, e.g. to go on vacation.
There are many high-quality prepared foods on the market today and including some type of prepared food in the diet is usually a good idea since high-quality products will be filled with various vitamins and minerals. Be careful with prepared foods that claim to be perfect for all kinds of species in all kinds of situations, because it is impossible to create such a food due to the extremely varying dietary needs of different species of fish. You should also be sceptic when a prepared food claims that it is so perfect that no other food is necessary. In my opinion, prepared foods (e.g. flakes and pellets) should always be supplemented with other foods to make the diet more varied and less monotonous. The more varied the diet, the less the risk of nutritional deficiencies in the long run. Life will also be more interesting for your fish when they are offered some variation in the aquarium.
Avoiding over-feeding is very important when keeping an aquarium, because overfeeding will make it hard to keep the water quality up. You should also keep in mind that fish can become obese and suffer from diet health problems, just like humans. This risk of health problems is especially high if you feed your fish food that it wouldn’t eat in the wild, e.g. if you feed an algae-eating species protein rich and fatty food, or if you give your predatory fish fat pork scraps instead of lean fish and crustaceans.
Source: AC Tropical aquarium fish.