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31 Reviews
  • Relaxing to watch.
  • Tank set up costs.
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    31 Reviews
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      11.10.2014 00:18
      Very helpful
      1 Comment


      • "Relaxing to watch."


      • "Tank set up costs."

      Tetras are My Favourites


      When my daughter first asked for fish as pets, we thought gold fish would be the easiest to keep. Maybe some fish owners find that they are, but repeated attempts by us resulted in quick deaths, despite cleaning our good sized tank out to get rid of any possible infections in between efforts. Maybe our failure was because the shop that we bought them from was not as reliable a source as we thought.

      Our neighbour kept tropical fish and suggested that we try them instead. So we went to the added expense of adding a heater, thermostat and filtration unit with an air pump to our tank.

      We bought guppies, and a variety of extra colourful tetras. We chose these as being easy to keep varieties, and did quite well.

      We liked the tetras best because they were more decorative and did not eat their babies like the guppies. Ideally baby fish should be separated from adult guppies until they have grown up.

      We did not go for the full range of fish, but experts, like my neighbour, will tell you that for a fully functioning environment you need varieties that feed at the top, middle and bottom, the latter eating the waste from the bottom of the tank to minimise the cleaning time needed by the owner.

      Snails also eat the debris but they reproduce extremely quickly, so we found them more of a nuisance in our limited species collection. Incidentally, you only need one snail to get a large amount of baby snails. I don’t pretend to understand the biology, but can confirm from experience. (The first snail we acquired was on a water plant we bought.)

      For cleaning we took out a third of the water about once a fortnight, and replaced it with pre-heated treated water. It depends on the contents of your tank how often you need to replace the water.


      I enjoyed keeping our colourful tropical fish, and found watching them relaxing.

      After the initial expense of setting up the tank, if you buy the right varieties they will breed and replace the older ones quite economically. Their food and water treatment supplies did not cost much.

      I particularly recommend neon tetras as a good variety for beginners, as they are colourful and quite hardy. They naturally live in groups so I think you should buy at least six of them.


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        17.03.2012 14:46
        Very helpful



        Couldn't imagine not haing a tank in the living room, very relaxing

        Myself and my boyfriend have lived in our house now for 5 years. Initially we only had a cat and we have both always liked fish tanks and the ambience and relaxation they bring to a living room so we decided to get one and keep tropical fish. We have now kept tropical fish for over 4 years and have had two different tanks in this time.

        Our first tank was given to us second hand by a family member as they were upgrading to a larger tank. The tropical fish lived well in this as we kept the water as it contained all the good bacteria that only builds up over time. This tank eventually got too tatty when the filter and light broke so we went out to find a new one and came back £100 lighter but with a nice 90L tank with built in light and filter.

        We tendered the water from the old tank as it was already well established with the essential bacteria and after leaving it t filter for a few days and treating the water we went out to buy some fish. We tend to keep silver and speckled mollies, clown loach and different types of bottom feeders to help maintain the tank and keep it clean.

        If a tank looks dirty or has too much algea this is a sign of over feeding. Once every other day should be enough food for the fish and even then they only need a pinch as they do not know when to stop eating and this can kill them.

        After the initial cost the tank shouldnt cost too much although we have had to replace the filter a few times and also the lights, we have also added to the fish as they have decreased in numbers as they have gotten old. The thing is with fish, you can choose how expensive you want them t be. I'm our local garden centre you can buy some fish as cheap as 4 for £5 or they can cost you as much as £150 a single fish!

        Our tank has a lovely light in it that really enhances the colour of the fish, the orange fish especially are really vibrant. We also have live plants which need to be replaced often as the fish and snails like to chew them, and we have a few plastic plants and rock ornaments that the fish like to swim in and out of and hide in. The water doesn't need to be changed that much as the good bacteria lives in the water so you don't want to be getting rid of too much of it. Changing 10% of the water every 2 weeks will be good enough.

        Occasionally we'll buy a few new fish, most will be fine but we tend to lose the odd one as they either get too shocked in transit or do not find the change in water to be compatible. When you buy new fish you need to keep them in the bag and float them in the top of your tank for at least 30 minutes so the temperature adjusts to the same else they could die from shock. This is also a good way for the fish to see the tank and the fish they are about to move in with in a safer environment.

        The tank really adds a nice glow to the living room, especially at night and a lot of the time I find myself watching the fish rather than the TV! At the end of last year we were fortunate for the mollies to breed meaning we had 10-15 baby fish which was brilliant to be able to watch them grow from tiny specs into full adults. It was also nice to know that we have provided a happy environment for the fish as they are meant to breed when they feel happy and comfortable in their environment.

        I would fully recommend having a tropical fish tank, be prepared for the big initial expense and don't think it will stop there as there are expenses required to maintain the tank such as pumps, filters, water heaters, lights, fish, plants etc. If you are thinking of getting a tank it's worth reading up on and maybe speaking to someone who already has one. The location of the tank also needs to be considered, it cannot be kept in direct sunlight or in an environment that would be too cold so that it'd drop the temperature of the water as tropical fish should be kept at 28-30 degrees. It'd also need access to a couple of plug sockets.

        Thank you for reading and I hope you have found it interesting!


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        • More +
          20.11.2011 18:28
          Very helpful



          Something Smells Fishy

          I have been keeping fish for about 5 years now and have kept both tropical and coldwater tanks. At present, I keep just coldwater fish, as I prefer their temperament so I will base this review mainly on Coldwater fish.

          Before you buy fish
          Before you decide whether fish are the right pets for you, you need to consider a few questions:

          · Are you willing to maintain the tank? People always assume that fish are easy to look after, this is a myth, they will need regular cleaning and fresh plants etc.

          · Do you have the room for a tank? There is nothing worse than seeing fish all cooped up in a tiny tank. I always like to give my fish as much room as possible as it is great to watch them swim around and watch them go about their day-to-day business. Keeping 1, possibly 2 fish in a fish bowl would just about be ok but any more than 2 fish and you will certainly need a bigger tank.

          · Are you happy to have a pet that you can't really interact with? Fish are pretty much there to be looked at and a lot of people say that as a pet, you don't get much back from them which to some extent is true

          - obviously you wont be able to take your pet fish for walks or have cuddles with it and this is something that you need to bare in mind.

          What you need

          Obviously you are going to need a tank to keep your fish in. Personally, I think bigger is always better. I currently have a 3-foot long tank in which I keep about 8 goldfish, along with a 4 loaches. All this fish have plenty of room and there is leftover room for decorations etc. Another advantage of larger tanks is that larger tanks are easier to keep as a stable environment. Attractively shaped tanks are very nice, but the best type for your fish is long and wide. Remember, you are going to need to keep the tank on something that will be able to support the weight, for example, some tanks come with stands and cabinets which can be very attractive and fit in well with other furniture. Personally, I have my fish tank on a shelf, which my Dad has had to make extra strong to support the weight of the tank.

          Great lighting shows off your fish and is essential for plants. However, there is a down side: light makes algae grow which means more cleaning for you. In addition, some fish don't like bright lights. There are special fluorescent lights available which emit very little heat and provide light at the correct wavelength for plants. Personally I like having a light as it shows off the fish nicely so you are able to watch them. My light in on a timer and the light it turned on in the morning and off in the evening with similar hours to our daylight hours.

          You will need a lid for your fish tank. This prevents fish jumping out and other animals getting in (cats will love a fish tank, as do my dogs!) It also prevents dust and general household waste (such as the fumes from dusting polish) getting into the water. Another advantage of the lid is that the lights can be attached to the lid, which provides a safe place to attach the light and keeps them out of view, making the tank more attractive.

          This is useful more so for tropical fish as they have to be kept in certain temperatures. However, it can also be useful for coldwater fish as it tell you if they are getting too hot/ cold although this is quite unlikely if they are kept indoors.

          It is better to buy pre-washed gravel from a pet store. Gravel from other sources will have to be washed thoroughly and boiled for 20minutes to make sure you get rid of any bacteria on it.

          Always buy your plants from a reputable pet store. Check that they are compatible with the fish you have in your tank, and that they will not grow too fast, therefore taking over your tank. Plants are good for your tanks and my fish love to nibble on the plants and swim against them. Plants can create a mess though as the fish can nibble on them, meaning that pieces can break off and lay on the bottom of the tank rotting so you need to be aware of this.

          Every fish tank must have some form of water filter to remove waste products and debris. These should be cleaned regularly; I do mine every 2 weeks although you probably need to do it at least once a month. My filter was bought from a local fish shop and cost £20. It came with sucker pads and just attaches to the side of the tank filtering the water. My fish love the filter and it pumps back out the clean water and they love swimming in the flow of the water.

          Normal household tap water will not be good for keeping your fish it as it has a fairly highly chlorine level. You will need to buy chlorine treatment which is about £3 a bottle (and last for ages). Anytime you do a water change (more about this later) or do anything to the water, you will need to use this treatment.

          There are hundreds of decorations and ornaments to choose from. Fake plants, underwater scenes and cartoon characters to name a few. I prefer to keep my tank looking as natural as possible and only have a few rocks that look similar to coral and a few shells for decoration. I find that it is better to not have too many decorations as you do need to clean them regularly to remove the algae so its easier when you don't have so many to clean.

          At the very least, you will need a net, a siphon and bucket (all to aid with cleaning). You can also get a little gadget (although I am not sure what it is called) and it is basically a magnet with Velcro on one side which you drag across the glass to remove the algae. This is very effective in cleaning the glass.

          As I have already said, I prefer keeping Coldwater fish as I find tropical fish can be bullies and you have to be very careful about which fish you can keep together! No matter what type of tank you decide to keep, picking your fish is very important. Fish are not very hardy animals; they are small and therefore easily stressed. When picking you fish, make sure all the fins are intact and that it is swimming around happily rather than sitting near the bottom. Always, always make sure you ask someone which fish are ok to be kept together. For example, some of the fancy fish (with long flowing fins) cannot be kept with the non-fancy fish, as their fins will be eaten.

          Place your tank out of bright sunlight. Once all accesories are in place, ie gravel, pump etc fill the tank with water. You will need to use the cholorine treatment and then leave the tank to settle for at least 48 hours before you actaully go and buy any fish to keep in the tank. The pH balance need to be correct in the water otherwise your new fish wil just die so it is vital you leave the water to settle.

          Your new fish will come in plastic bags. Place these bags in the top of the tank and leave them there for 30 minutes. This will allow the temperature in the bag and the tank to reach an even level so it is not too much of a shock / temperature change when the fish enter their new home.

          Once your tank is all set up and working, maintenance is fairly easy as long as you do it on a regular basis. It is important to look after your tank to keep your fish healthy. Every day, check that the water is clean and your fish are swimming about. Your fish will quickly become ill in a dirty tank. Every two weeks, change part of the water in the tank with a siphon that sucks up all the debris. Take about a tenth of the water out and replace it with new water (make sure you use the chlorine treatment). Clean the tank thoroughly. Cut back any plants that have grown too tall or bushy, and clean off any green slime off the inside of the glass with a scouring pad. If you do a 10% water change every 2 weeks, this should ensure the water never gets too dirty and any loose debris will be picked up in the filter which you empty every 2 weeks also.

          Fish food is available in nearly all pets shops. I buy a medium sized tub (which lasts for around 4 months) and it costs me £3. Many people overfeed fish which is pointless as any food that is not eaten will sink to the bottom and then rot, making the water pungent. Only feed as much as your fish will eat and more often that not, this is till too much. I always think it is better to feed too little then too much as you do not want that water going stagnant and your fish dying.
          I have goldfish as well as plecos (ground feeders) so I also feed my fish with pellets that drop to the bottom of the tank, allowing the ground feeders to eat also.

          On the whole, as long as you do your research and are prepared to clean your fish tank regularly, keeping fish is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. They are fascinating to watch and each one really does have its own character. Regular maintenance will ensure you have a healthy and long-lived tank.


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            04.11.2011 02:02



            ideal pets for all ages

            Now whenever you walk into a pet shop you find almost a hundred different kinds of fish its a fact that all are unique but stunning creatures. I have had a multitude of pets and still have but my tropical fish live with my 2 turtles and get along fine for 1 simple reason the fish are bigger although they are oscar fish and plecs. The main thing to remember about tropical fish is can they get along with each other? For example i re homed about a dozen angel fish they were fine a month then when i got home from work 1 day they had all savaged each other found out later it was their breeding season and 1 of them was female so you must check with the seller and research them on the internet for the requirements of the fish and their breeding season habits do they get violent? Can i separate them if needs be? Remember not all species go together but most tropical fish are community fish and best kept in groups of their own species or similar. Pets are for life not a few weeks remember.


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            03.12.2010 14:21
            Very helpful



            Not a hobby for everyone but worth perservering with.

            Keeping tropical fish is a daunting prospect for many as there seem to be so many things to consider and so much that can go wrong. As a lad I remember vividly my Dad draining the fish-tank regularly. I would would as he transferred fish to bowls scrubbing gravel with bleach and then refilling quickly to put the fish back in. Looking back is it any wonder that so many fish ended up taking that final trip to flushville?

            Thankfully, tropical fish are a far easier prospect today thanks to far more informed pet shops and owners. I myself have been keeping a medium-sized, 60 litre tank with very few problems for over two years now. However, just because it is easier nowadays it does not mean there are not some things you need to consider.

            Perhaps the most important thing to consider when purchasing a tank is whether you have the room and facilities to keep one. Putting your tank somewhere in your room so it is the centrepiece is all well and good but can you get to it? Is it near to a socket or will you have to have several trailing wires across the room? Ideally a tank should be in a corner near a double socket at a minimum as you will need at least two plugs. You also need to consider whether what you are putting your tank on is sturdy enough. That cheap corner unit might look nice but will it support a large tank with a large amount of water in it? We soon found out that sturdier furniture would be required as our flimsy unit bowed under our tanks weight!

            Tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and I would recommend one with a built in light and lid to save space and dangling wiring. More importantly the lid will stop your more energetic fish from jumping out and making a break for freedom Nemo style! A decent medium-sized tank should cost around £150 but the expense doesn't end there. The initial set up of a tank is definitely costly compared to it's cold water counterpart and unless you really want those exotic fish a goldfish bowl is a hell of a lot cheaper! Starter kits are a good way to save money and for less than £200 you should be able to get a complete kit. Essential components of a tropical tank include a heater, filter and thermometer.

            Many pet shops/aquariums will give you great advice on how to set up your tank and the advice I got stood me in good stead. When you get your lovely new tank home the temptation is to get it all set up and put some fish in straight away. Bad move! As much as it kills you, the tank should be assembled (filter, heater plugged in, gravel and plants and filled with tap water) and left to heat the water to the right temperature. The heater will be thermoset to the ideal temperature and you need to allow the water to reach this, you also need to allow the filter to do it's work and your tap water will not be immediately safe for your fish. You will need to add "water safe" solution to the water (all good starter kits will come with this) as normal tap water has higher chlorine contents than is safe.

            After a week or so you can finally start adding fish but it is also advisable to get your water tested first. Most decent pet shop/aquariums will test your water for free checking that it is at the correct balance. High ammonia and nitrogen levels in particular are deadly to fish and they will test for this. Although this all sounds rather daunting it is not the exact science it sounds and once your tank is "established" it will require very little maintenance.

            If all is well most places will advise hardy starter fish like Danios to begin your tank that you can buy very cheaply and although not the pretty fish you are hoping for, will start providing the tank water with the minerals it needs for more delicate fish to thrive. There is no precise limit to the amount and type of fish you can have in your tank but it is wise to take the advice of reputable sellers. Fish are surprisingly territorial and often aggressive with some preferring company while others prefer a solitary existence. Getting the balance of what works for your tank is something of an art form and you may well find a few floating failed experiments initially.
            Of course, once you have your tank set up the costs drop considerably and how much you want to spend is up to you. You can get three fish for a fiver or spend over two-hundred quid. It is as expensive or as cheap a hobby as you make it. A well-maintained tank pretty much costs nothing other than electricity (if you have a meter don't let it go off while you are out) and the occasional new tub of fish food and safe water solution.

            Maintaining a tank isn't even hard work nowadays. There is no longer the massive debate about water changes there used to be. A tank shouldn't need more than a 10%/20% water change weekly and there are no hard and fast rules on this. What came as new information to me is that you no longer rinse out your filter in tap water. That manky sponge you remove from the filter has all the good bacteria that helps your fish to thrive. Squeezing it in the tank water is more than enough.

            Algae is unlikely to build up significantly in a good tank and you should not find yourself ever having to scrub the glass (indeed it isn't a good idea to introduce foreign bodies into the tank water). If you do feel like there is a green tinge appearing on glass or in water shrimps and catfish (plec) will happily eat that for you and are entertaining to watch. Often an excessive amount of dirt or algae in a tank is a sign of overfeeding. Again there are no hard and fast rules but everyday is probably too much. Every other day or even less frequently initially is more than adequate. More than that and ammonia levels will rise leading to your fish hovering at the top of the tank "gasping" for air. It will also lead to disease such as white spot which although easy to treat can decimate a tank.

            Despite this deluge of information an up and running tank really pretty much takes care of itself and is a serene and rewarding hobby. I hope this review inspires some of you to give it a go.


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              04.09.2010 16:26
              Very helpful



              My sons love the fish and they are a nice hobby, well worth all the trouble getting started.

              I decided to write this after reading a number of reviews on poor advice from pet stores on keeping fish. I have kept fish most of my life and used to be in charge of fish where I worked. Not that I was really an expert, but far wiser than the idiot who decided all the Siamese fighters should be together so they wouldn't be lonely, or the manager who thought a shipment of small cardinal tetras would make good tank mates for very large key hole cichlids. This will not be comprehensive or go into much detail on types of fish but will just try to include the basics.

              CHOOSING A TANK

              Try to buy the largest tank possible. A larger tank is much easier to maintain and will provide a more stable water quality. While many of the novelty tanks are lovely, they usually are not the best choice. They lack heating for small fish, and goldfish do grow big. They also pollute water quickly and are really better off in larger tank. The idea of fish growing to the size of the tank is not true. They will not reach the size of wild specimens usually, but fish often outgrow tanks, especially goldfish if they live long enough. My last goldfish lived 10 years in progressively larger tanks until I could no longer find room for yet a bigger tank. At 14" they were re homed to a pond owner. These were common 1 1/2" comets when I got them.

              SETTING UP A TANK
              This is the biggest are for mistakes and I slaughtered everything I bought for my first tank by listening to a pet shop attendant who didn't have a clue. They later tried feeding me a load of pseudo scientific nonsense, but to make things simple your tank needs to be very slowly stocked until the good bacteria build up. This is called cycling. The simple explanation is, fish poop and pee, nitrites and ammonia build up in water and poison fish. mechanical filtration does not remove these nasties. The only way to keep things in check is with the proper amount of good bacteria, which break the down the waste into non harmful substances.

              There are two ways to cycle a tank, one is called a fish-less or chemical cycle and I do not know enough about it to explain it properly, but you can google it for more info. The other, most common way is by adding fish very slowly. Start out with only 1 or 2 hardy fish and wait for 8 weeks until the cycle is complete, and then add fish slowly. Of course this is more difficult with a very small tank because while one or two small catfish in a 2' tank is very understocked and will not build up too many chemicals. Two goldfish in a small tank is already heavily stocked. The ebst you can do is daily partial water changes with water aged at least 24 hours. DO NOT RINSE GRAVEL, this is where your bacteria is building up. You will have to rinse the filter frequently, but ideally this should be done in water drained from tank. Do not use hot water as this will kill bacteria.

              Can you jump start this? Yes a bit. If you have more than one tank you can run the new filter in an existing tank for a week or so before setting up your new tank. This will build up some bacteria. You can also leave a nylon stocking full of gravel in an existing tank to develop bacteria, and even a good amount water from a healthy tank will help.

              You can buy test kits to show if the water is within safe parameters. One type is reviewed on dooyoo "API 5 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips" if you want to look them up. I believe others have been as well, so if anyone has done a review can you post info in comments? Cheers.

              BUYING FISH

              Unless you are 100% certain you are dealing with a knowledgeable sales assistant, look up each species online to see if they are compatible. I once had a sales assistant try to sell me Oscars for a community tank with very small fish. Choose the one species you want most and work around that. For instance if you are set on neon tetras you must choose all relatively small peaceful fish. If you want piranha you can not have anything else! I would also check water requirements myself. i have in the past been sold fish as freshwater, only to find out that they require brackish water as they get older. Brackish water is a nightmare to maintain, and of course not suitable for many other fish. Check specialised dietary requirements as well. While most fish will do okay with just flake, occasional frozen foods are better for all of them. Some however can only eat frozen foods, and may even require special foods like cockles. If you are not sure you will be able to provide the correct diet, choose another fish.

              Plectoctomus- One of the most common fish, this really needs a large tank, at least 3-4'. For a smaller tank choose ancistrus who looks much the same but will remain under 6".

              Beware of dyed fish. This is a cruel process which causes a lot of pain and suffering and severely weakens the fish. Most will die within a month or two, but if they survive the bright colours will fade anyway. Parrot fish are commonly dyed. Parrot fish are naturally a white to light pink shade with a possible light golden tint around fins. This colouration can be enhanced by feeding brine shrimp, but if the fish is bright orange, strawberry coloured or blue it is dyed. Glass fish with neon stripes will also be dyed, or "painted". Many albino fish are also coloured now.

              Also be aware of any fish with badly damaged fins, white spots or fungus.


              Once a tank is properly set up and cycled the maintenance is not that much. You simply part of the water every few weeks to every few months depending on type of fish and filtration. I prefer out of tank filter which require less maintenance, but it is up to you. Never take more than 1/3 of the water at a time, and never thoroughly clean your gravel and filter at the same time.

              I have had my tank for years now and do very little with it. Some of my fish are now 10 years old. The tank and fish are well settled so all I do now beyond basic maintenance is sit back and watch them :)

              Finally, please don't think of fish as disposable pets. I know we don't spare much thought for the ones served up with a plate of chips, but any animal purchased as a pet should be entitled to some standard of care.
              If you find you can not keep them, try local fish shops or advertise on Gumtree. Keep in mind, with proper care many fish can live for a decade or more.


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              • More +
                03.07.2010 23:38
                Very helpful



                I love my tropical fish!

                This review is completely written by me and none of it is taken from the internet! I know it may provoke opinions of fish keeping however I am happy to answer any questions!

                When it comes to keeping topical fish, most people assume it's a hard job and either avoid it all together, or don't bother to read about fish keeping before going out and buying their fish!
                Because of this, fish have been given the stereotype 'fish don't last long' 'fish die' and it really really irritates me when I hear people say this!
                If you have bothered to learn about how to keep your fish healthy before being selfish enough to buy them with no knowledge, then you should have no problems.

                I never knew properly how to keep fish, tropical or cold water, before I met my boyfriend. I now know everything there is to know about keeping a tropical fish tank!

                Tropical fish; ....
                All fish have different life expectancies, some are only expected to live a little over a year, some up to three years and some (such as catfish) can live up to 20 years and over.
                Shrimp don't have very long life expectancies and are expected to die after about a year and a half, however this depends on the time when you buy your fish or shrimp. You could purchase a fish which has already filled half its life expectancy! However if you have researched how to care for the little fish, you can be confident that you can give the fish a fantastic happy rest of its life!

                When it comes to choose your fish, there are so many different types! Ranging from the cheap little minnows and tetras, to the more expensive discus and catfish.
                You also have to make sure your choice of fish can live happily together as mixing certain types can equal chaos in your fish tank!
                I prefer researching online about new fish rather than asking for pet store staff advice as I've found most of them guess and make things up!
                I have three fish tanks in my room, a large, a medium and a small! In the small I've got a male fighter, also known as a betta. It doesn't take much research to find that these fish cannot be kept together and they should only be kept with other smaller fish! However you'd be surprised at how many store staff will tell you male fighters are fine together.

                I also find it useful to do a little background information research on fish, such as the betta! I learnt these fish come from small lakes/puddles with very low running water. Because of this I try to keep the filter in my tank faced in a way which won't upset my betta!

                Catfish are common among many tropical fish keepers! Catfish range from being very cheap, to very expensive! Some are simple to breed, and some are impossible to breed in captivity!
                Before I began my fish keeping hobby, I didn't have a clue catfish could be kept in fish tanks! I always thought they were huge monsters living in the sea and rivers!

                The Plecostomus catfish is one popular cat among the fish keepers and they can be easily found in pet stores around Britain. They are relatively cheap when small however increase in price as they grow! These catfish are fine kept in reasonably small tanks when small however they will outgrow their tanks very quickly and I've had to re-home a few from my 125 litre as I thought when they reached 6inchs it was cruel to keep them in a small tank!

                And then there are the zebra plecs! These certainly can't be easily found in pet stores and are selling at around £100 per fish! Their lovely colours and markings give them their name 'zebra pleco' I would absolutely love one of these catfish, breeders must make a fortune!

                Tropical fish fall into groups, making them easier to understand. Tetras and Barbs are two common groups holding many fish. They get their names from their shapes and behaviours and these two groups aren't recommended to be kept living together. This doesn't mean they strictly cannot be kept together however and I've found some fish do live happily together.

                It's easy to guess from the name 'fin nippers' certain fish are given, (such as tiger barbs and kribensis) that these fish shouldn't be kept with other fish with long fins (such as guppies and betas) however it's not always easy to tell which fish are the 'fin nippers' so again I would recommend researching these online when you are choosing which fish you'd like to keep.

                For beginners to tropical fish keeping, there are fish which are known as 'hardy' fish plainly because they are a little more lenient to conditions and do give you second chances when you mess up! I've found livebearers (not egg layers) are a favourite among the new fish keepers, however they can be trouble when they constantly breed and pop out babies which you don't want! Common live bearers are; ....
                Sword tails
                Mollies (Baloon mollies, sailfin mollies etc)

                **Live bearers are fish which don't lay eggs, they are pregnant for a few weeks and when ready, they pop out little fish fry.
                All of these can be kept together happily as they are relaxed friendly and beautiful fish! The guppies tend to be a favourite among little children and new fish keepers as they have lovely colours. Guppies can be bought in many different colours however people like to just keep male guppies as they are the brightest and this way they won't end up with a tank full of guppy babies!

                Live bearers WILL breed very easily, one male and one female is all which is needed of a live bearer fish species and they will breed continuously (with good water conditions).
                However I like to keep pregnant live bearers in a hatchery so the babies aren't eaten by other tank mates.
                ** A hatchery is a specialised home made from plastic and net and can be used for keeping hurt fish, pregnant fish or small fry. A hatchery can be bought from most pet stores or online and they are relatively cheap.

                Shrimp; ....
                Shrimp aren't usually thought about within the 'Tropical fish' category however they can be kept in most tropical tanks and live happily with most fish! There are a wide range of shrimp you can buy, some more common than others, and some a lot cheaper than others!
                The ghost shrimp (also known as the glass or grass shrimp)
                The cherry red shrimp
                The amino shrimp
                Crystal red shrimp
                Are shrimp which are commonly known, however the crystal red's aren't commonly found in pet stores and you may have to go to a specialised fish store for these. They can be bought on eBay however! Although they are a little more expensive compared to the other shrimp mentioned.
                The ghost and the cherry shrimp can live together and are relatively cheap! We buy our shrimp ranging from 99p to £1.99 for these shrimp and they are VERY easy to breed! They will quickly multiply and are lovely to watch.

                The amino shrimp is one I have in my biggest tank, I bought him from eBay along with other shrimp however he was the only to survive as the others were very tiny and unfortunately got eaten!
                The amino shrimp is another which isn't commonly found however can usually be found in specialised fish stores. The amino shrimp would probably be found to cost around £1- £3 per shrimp however they are lovely and grow a tiny bit bigger to the others mentioned.

                **Be aware! We bought what we thought to be a ghost shrimp from our local pets at home store! However he has now grown around 4inches long, over double to what normal ghost shrimp grow!
                As he looks very much like a ghost shrimp, we can't fault pets at home for this mistake!
                After researching, we are guessing he is a type is 'clawed' shrimp and after he ate three of my boyfriends shrimp, I decided to adopt him! I cleared out a tank for him and he is now feeding on garden worms and blood worms! He's a real monster!

                GOOD WATER! Cleaning your aquarium; ....
                This is the part where most fish keepers mess up! If you don't know how to clean your aquarium properly, then your fish will DIE and it has nothing to do with having 'crappy' fish, it's your own fault!
                The sooner people get that into their heads, the better in my opinion!
                Water conditions are the main factor in fish health! In theory, you can have an overstocked fish tank safely with happy fish as long as you keep your water in good condition.

                I have a 125 litre tank with too many fish in! I had to move fish into this tank when I took my boyfriends unwanted shrimp! He would have eaten the fish so it was either let them die, or move them into the bigger tank! Although because I look after the tank, the water conditions are kept stable so my fish are happy!

                Cleaning your filter; ....
                Rule 1. DON'T wash your filter with tap water.
                With that rule followed, most of the problems are sorted!
                Essential bacteria grows in your fish tank filter, this bacteria breaks down fish waste and avoids build of ammonia (which kills your fish).
                Washing your filter under the tap kills the bacteria! Chlorine is in everybody's tap water; chlorine is made to kill bacteria, so washing your filter sponge in tap water is bad.

                So how do you clean it?
                Take a little water from your fish tank into a bucket or large container, take apart your filter and wash your filter sponge in this tank water. Use nothing else apart from this water and your hands! Shake the sponge vigorously until the water has gone a mucky dirty colour. Then replace the filter sponge whilst is it still wet. Never wait for the sponge to dry out.
                Doing that simple step once a month avoids A LOT of fish deaths. However water changes are also essential... (Read on)

                Cleaning your tank; ....
                Ignore what this subtitle may usually mean. 'Cleaning your tank' doesn't mean taking out all of your water, ornaments and gravel and giving the tank a good scrub with fairy liquid.. NO!
                Rule 2. NEVER empty out all of your water.
                Rule 3. NEVER take out your fish when doing water changes, it may seem cruel to leave them in whilst you are splashing around, but removing them would certainly cause a lot more stress! Leaving them in their safe happy home where they know best is the only option.

                Actually, you should never 'clean your tank'. Water changes and filter cleans is what is needed!
                Once every 2 to 3 weeks is when I do my water changes on each of my tanks. Sometimes more often in my 125 litre as I have more fish in that tank... more fish means more poop!
                When doing a water change, you should take out no more than 40% of the water. This can be done easily with a siphon.
                ** A siphon is a tool made to easily remove water from your tank and to enable you to suck up poop from your gravel easily without harming fish. A siphon can be bought from most pet stores or online and is very simple and easy to use, and very cheap.

                After removing no more than 40% water from your tank and pouring it away. Fill up your bucket/container with water as close to your tank temperature as possible.
                Rule 4. NEVER pour water straight from your tap into your fish tank.
                Before pouring the fresh water in, you need to add water dechlorinator, to get rid of any chlorine or harmful chemicals.
                **dechlorinator can be bought from any fish store and most pet stores. The prices range from cheap to a little more expensive depending on the brand! I recommend nutrafin!
                Dechlorinator is an ESSENTIAL for fish keeping, not using this will cause problems for your fish as the chlorine will kill the bacteria in your filter and water, thus increasing the ammonia and nitrite levels in your tank.... basically... just use dechlorinator!

                Why do water changes?
                Fish poop turns into ammonia, which then turns into nitrite then nitrate. None of these are wanted in your water!
                To test the levels of these in your water you can buy an API test. (See my review on the API test kit for more information)
                Most people like to keep live plants in their tank as they use up nitrates in your water! Plants also add to the natural feel to the tank and keep your fish happy by providing hiding places.

                Temperature; ....
                All tropical fish need a heater and a filter. Needing a heater is the only added essential parting these fish from the usual 'cold water'.
                So when people say "tropical fish keeping was too hard, I've gone back to goldfish" it makes me think, what sense is there in that? Keeping tropical fish is exactly the same, you just need a heater! And you get this with most aquarium packs!
                Different tropical fish prefer different temperatures, which is another reason why it's best to research your fish before buying! If you ask in a pet store what temperature a certain fish prefers, most of the time they will either guess or tell you to look it up.

                It's handy to buy a tropical fish keeping guide, these often tell you everything there is to know about a fish!

                Breeding; ....
                Some tropical fish are easy to breed, in fact some you couldn't stop breeding unless you separated them... and they'd still get pregnant for a while after!
                Live bearers such as guppies will continue to breed month after month when kept together, however even if you were to separate the males from the females, the females would continue to become pregnant for some time after! This is because they have the ability to store the male sperm and use it time after time!

                This is great if you actually want to breed, however it's a problem if you don't! Although if you do have a pregnant live bearer, don't panic, the fry are almost certain to be eaten soon after birth anyway! Even the mothers will eat them most the time!
                So if you want to keep the little fry, buy a hatchery which has a separate area for the fry to swim into and be safe from their mum and other tank mates. Be prepared to keep the fry in the hatchery for a good few weeks after though, maybe even months! I recently took out my guppy fry at 3 months old and they still weren't old enough to go in with the other fish! So I eventually gave them to my boyfriend.

                Some fish are impossible to breed in captivity, and some have very rare cases of people managing a breed. I will never give up hoping to be one of those fortune people!
                I've bread all the live bearers and wanted to move on! I am now trying to get my Kribensis to breed! However they do get aggressive when breeding as they are very good parents and protect their fry by attacking any fish which gets near. This means my other fish may be in trouble!
                Kribensis are egg layers, egg layers and egg scatter's can be harder to breed and many egg layers fail first time!
                When I say fail, I don't mean they lay out their eggs wrong! Many egg layers don't get the whole parenting thing right until the second or third try!

                I would recommend a lot of research before trying to breed fish! I am sick of answering questions on yahoo answers from people who have bred their fish but have no clue what to do with them after!
                I currently have a small plant pot in my tank with a whole in the side to provide a lovely cave for my spawning Kribensis.
                All spawning fish like places to hide for when they're feeling vulnerable or need a place to keep their little fry.
                And at the end of it all, when you have had fun with your breeding experience and have too many fish to handle! You have the task of re-homing them!

                However breeding is never completely successful. I have never managed to raise a full group of fry from birth. In fact once, only one of my molly fry survived as the mother got so stressed in the hatchery she forced them out too soon.
                And some mothers have the problem of not feeing safe enough to give birth, if this happens a slight raise in temperature has been proven to help however this should be done in very little steps and then bought back after in the same way.

                I've discovered there are certain brands which are better than others when it comes to buying fish products for your fish such as dechlorinator, food and treatments. A few brands I would recommend are; ....
                King British (fish food)
                These three are my top recommended, although they can sometimes cost a little more than the others, I think they are the best!

                My opinion; ....
                Tropical fish have become a large part in my life, I spend a lot of money on keeping them and I get emotional when a fish dies!
                Having three tanks in my room means I have to be very dedicated, however it's all become routine with me and besides the hard work... they are a joy to have!

                To me, my fish aren't ornaments or room entertainers, they are my hobby and something I enjoy doing. I don't buy a fish because it's beautiful, I buy a fish because it's interesting. Not all fish come out to say hello and a lot of bottom swimmers like to hide away and come out at night, however this doesn't make them 'boring' it makes them all the more interesting to me!

                I think it's cruel when people try to keep fish without any clue to what they need. Parents who buy fish for their kids because 'they want one' and they have no idea how to keep them alive need a reality check!
                Fish can still be won on fairs and I think that is very disgusting! Giving a little life away to someone on a fair ground for that person to keep in a little glass bowl is cruel.
                Everyone has their own opinion, but if your opinion is that 'fish are just fish and it doesn't matter if you let them die in a glass bowl' then I don't want to hear it.

                Fish are a great hobby to get into and I have learn a lot since starting this hobby almost 2 years ago. I think they are great pets for kids however you do need to get a fish keeping book or read about keeping them before!
                And always remember; don't buy your fish the same day you buy your tank!

                My boyfriend works in a pet store and it's terrible how many people don't have a single clue of what to even feed their fish never mind how to keep them and they've just bought fish before asking the questions!
                I will stop here because my opinions on fish keeping go on forever haha!

                Thank you for reading! I also post on Ciao


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                  27.03.2010 11:29
                  Very helpful



                  Great pets, easy to look after once you have learnt from your mistakes and you know what your doing!

                  I bought my first fish tank about 3 years ago now. I had no idea what sort of fish i wanted in there, it was a bit of a random decision to buy a fish tank. I thought i could just buy a tank fill it up with water and the next day go buy some fish!

                  I was wrong! The man at the till said i couldnt put any fish in the water for at least 7 days! So when i got home i started reading up on fish.

                  I decided i wanted tropical fish so i had to treat the water so it was ready for tropical fish. Different types of fish need different water, some need cold water such as gold fish, tropical need a bit warmer, and some need salt water.

                  When i got home i rinsed out the tank, added the gravel i had bought, and filled it up with water. I set up the heater, filter and pump also. It was only about a 50 litre tank i had bought from pets at home, and it was a starter kit so for about £50 i got tank, heater, pump and filter with it.

                  You need to leave your water for a minimum of 7 days if you want to put tropical fish in your tank. You need to add a solution which takes the chlorine out of the water, such as TapSafe as it is harmful to tropical fish.

                  You need to set your heater up, and get a thermometer in there, and keep the water around 25 degrees. In the summer you need to be careful as my tank went up to 30 degrees, i think it must have been the room so hot? So i added some jugs of cold water to try and bring the temperature down. I think tropical fish can cope with temperature being a bit too hot or cold as mine has varied since i first started keeping them, i doesnt seem to have affected them. But you should always try and maintain the temp to about 25 degrees.

                  I usually clean the filter about once a month, and you are supposed to clean it in some of tanks own fish water, as if you clean it thoroughly in clean tap water it will take a while to build its cycle and bacteria up again in the tank. Thats what a pet shop told me anyway!

                  You should put about 2 inches of gravel in, and make sure you buy a tank hoover for this gravel and its gets so dirty! Also you should buy a magnet which you can get to clean aglae thats grows on the glass. There are about £5 from any pet store and are well worth the money.

                  I have now upgraded to a 120 litre tank, still not too big but its a nice size and its on a nice posh cabinet, in my front room. Fish are so relaxing, i love to watch them just swimming or chasing each other about!

                  There are lots of tropical fish you can buy, and the great thing is they are not expensive like marine fish are. For example, you can add some neon tetras, which are a very small fish, blue with a red stripe. These can be bought for about £5 for a group of six. You should always keep these in a group, and they always stick together in the tank and are very easy to look after.

                  There are also lots of different types of mollies. I have balloon mollies at the moment, and i always find mollies dont last very long. I have had black mollies,different coloured ones, and they nearly always get white spot or sadly just die after a few months. I dont know what im doing wrong with them! This never happens with any other fish i buy though.

                  You can also get some lovely types of angel fish, some that dont grow too big, suitable for a smallish tank. I love the golden ones, or the marble ones which i have got at the moment. They are beautiful fish to look at and easy to take care of.

                  You should also get a few cat fish, such as peppered corydorus ones, these are best kept in a group as well and usually are about £6 for 3. These try there best to keep the tank clean! They search through the gravel all day eating up bits of food left!

                  The best fish i have had are tiger barbs and kissing fish. These two types of fish are so funny to watch as tiger barbs love to chase each other and play and so do kissing fish! The kissing fish look so funny when they are kissing, and they also clean algae off the glass and the ornaments!

                  You should do a water change every so often on your fish tank to add fresh oxygen to the tank. I change about 40% every month, and if any of the fish get ill i usually do a 10% water change for 7 days to clear it out.

                  Fish food is not expensive! Its about £5.50 for a small box, and with about 20 fish in my tank, feeding them everyday, this box lasts me a good 6 weeks to two months. You can buy this food at any supermarkets, so i just pick it up in my weekly shop when i need it. You can also get live food from pet stores at about 50p a bag. My fish love this! They go mad when for it!

                  You should also invest in a good water testing kit. I bought mine from pets at home for about £25 and its lasted 2 years so far and i still have loads left in it. The kit has the ph tests you need, nitrate, nitrite and amonia tests. You need to test your water regularly as small change such as too much amonia can be fatal for your fish!

                  There are lots of different ornaments to get for your tank, and also live plants. I have never bought live plants my self though, i always buy the fake ones! I find i have to replace all my ornaments after a year or so as algar starts to grow on them , and when you try and scrub it off the paint and stuff comes off with it! So i just buy new ones now every year.

                  As long as you do regular water changes, test your water, clean the filter and dont over feed your fish, they are relatively easy to look after once you know what you are doing! I would recommend fish to anybody who has the time to maintain the tank, as although you can not play with them yourselves they are great pets to have and i love watching them!


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                    04.02.2010 11:58
                    Very helpful



                    The perfect pets and you will never get bored

                    I have been keeping fish since I was 5years old and only had a few goldfish in a bowl.
                    My dad always used to tell me stories about some of the fish he used to keep in his tank and I was amazed.
                    When I got my first job I decided to go out and buy some tropical fish.
                    My first tank was a small gallon tank and it didn't take me long to realise that wasn't big enough. I slowly upgraded to bigger tanks until I reached the right size tank for me, a 4foot tank.

                    If you really want to enjoy tropical fish I would recommend at least a 3foot tank because you need a tank this size to really get the best fish.

                    There are hundreds of different fish you can get for your tank.
                    They vary in size from little 2 inch neon's to 30inch arrowanas.

                    Small fish
                    There are many small fish to choose from; these fish will fit nicely in tanks above 10gallons.
                    Tetras- There are loads of different tetras you can buy and the most popular being Neon tetras which are little blue fish with a bright red line down each size.
                    Other examples of tetras are Congo tetras, glow light tetras and blind cave tetras which have no eyes!
                    These fish need to be kept in groups of at least 5.
                    Another species of small fish are Guppies. Most people know of the guppy and most people know them to be prolific breeders, often compared to rabbits.
                    If you have male and female guppies in your tank your going to have some more arrive fairly soon.
                    Guppies are sometimes used as feeder fish, which means they are fed as food to larger tropical fish.

                    Medium sized fish
                    This is where keeping fish starts to get interesting. You have a much bigger choice of what you can buy.
                    You will need a tank of at least 3foot to keep most of these fish.
                    Some examples of medium sized tropical fish are the silver dollar, angel fish, convict cichlids and fire mouth cichlids.
                    Silver dollars are what they sound like, a fish shaped like a silver dollar. They are a round fish, like a saucer and are a tin foil colour. These fish will get around 6inches and need to be kept in groups of at least 4.
                    Probably one of the best known tropical fish are the angel fish, which are the fish seen in the photo. They are a slim but tall fish and are very calm and fun to watch.
                    They are often kept in pairs and come in many different colours like zebra and gold.
                    Although they are very calm, they will sometimes eat smaller fish such as guppies and tetras so care must be taken when choosing tank mates.
                    They are also known to be aggressive eaters and will sometimes attack the food like it is alive, it's very entertaining.

                    The convict and the fire mouth come under a species of fish called Cichlids.
                    Cichlids come in all shapes, sizes and colours and when most fish keepers think of cichlids, they think of big fish that kill anything in the tank.
                    That's not always true, some cichlids are very peaceful, the angelfish is a type of cichlid and that's quite peaceful.
                    Fire mouths and convict are on the small size, about 4-5inches and can be aggressive. The fire mouth will kill smaller fish like tetras and will often pick fights with fish bigger than itself, though it will usually lose.
                    Convicts are probably the most popular cichlid; this is probably due to the looks and the behaviour. Convicts are worse than guppies, if you have a male and a female your almost certainly going to get little convicts in your tank fairly soon.
                    They are extremely aggressive when it comes to breeding and will defend their eggs and fry from ALL intruders, if they had the opportunity they would try and chase off a shark.

                    The types of cichlid that people think will kill all their fish are usually South American cichlids are get to very big sizes. An example of this is the Oscar fish. This fish is in my opinion the best fish I have ever owned, despite it eating some of my fish.
                    They are like having a puppy in the tank, they will get excited when you walk in the room and will jump out the tank to take food from your hand.
                    They are also known for being beggars; they will constantly be bugging you for food either by swimming up and down the tank, or head butting the top of the tank. These fish can get to sizes of over 1foot so a big tank is needed, at least 5 feet.

                    Larger fish
                    Cichlids are the main fish in this category but also some lesser know fish will be in this category, such as the silver arrowana and the Red tail catfish which both will get to almost 3 feet in length.

                    Other types of large fish are the clown loach, the silver shark and the tin foil barb which will get to about 12inches each.
                    These fish are often bought without the knowledge of how big they will get, they look very small at first and don't look like the type of fish that will get huge.
                    You will need a very big tank to hold these fish as they all need to be kept in groups, so a 4-5 foot tank will be needed.
                    You can get away with having clown loaches in a smaller tank because it takes years for them to get any bigger than 6inches.

                    Bottom feeders
                    There are a lot of bottom feeder fish you can buy and they will clean the bottom and the sides of your tank for you. Examples are the Plecostomus, corydoras catfish, clown loaches and Cuckoo catfish.
                    Plecostomus' probably have the most variety out of all fish. There are hundreds to choose from and range in price, from £3 to over £100 for rarer ones.
                    They also vary in size, from 3 inches to over 18inches to care must be taken when choosing the right one.
                    There are also many different species of catfish to choose from, like the Cuckoo catfish and the Pictus catfish, care must be taken when buying there as well because they can get pretty big are night hunters, so you may see some fish disappear overnight.

                    Setting up the right aquarium isn't cheap, for a start the fish will cost you about £50.
                    You can pick up a decent sized tank from somewhere like eBay for about £50 and you can buy one new for about £300 for a 4foot tank.
                    It's not the big things that make up the total price; it's all the little things.
                    An internal filter will cost about £30 and an external one will set you back about £70. A heater is £25, air pump is £15, lighting tube for about £10, gravel or sand £10-£20, plants are about £30, water treatment is about £15 for a couple of months and then there's the electricity bill.

                    Running In Period
                    Before you put any fish in the tank you need to give the water time to become suitable for fish.
                    Leave the water in a fully set up tank for about a week and then add some fish. You also need water treatments to keep the water healthy. Add some treatment every week or 2 to take the nitrate and ammonia out of the water and every time you put fresh water in the tank you need to add treatment to take all the water purifiers out.

                    You also need to think about disease. Fish can get all kinds of diseases like fin rot and the most common Ich.
                    Both are treatable with some treatment that can be bought from most fish stockists and will cost about £5.

                    Most people think fish are boring, think that they just swim up and down all day; this is mostly because they have never seen a full tank setup.
                    You will never get bored of keeping fish; it can be expensive but its well worth the time and money.

                    I would recommend to all as they are great pets and the right fish can be found for the right person.


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                      23.11.2009 13:32
                      Very helpful



                      More to look at than play with!

                      I have heard tropical fish described as 'More of a living ornament than a pet'. This is true in the sense that they are very attractive and relaxing to look at, and you can't touch or play with them like other pets. However, they are still animals who rely on you to fulfil all their needs. You can't just sit and admire them and throw them some food occasionally.

                      When I first decided to keep tropical fish I didn't realise how complicated it could be or how long it would be before I could actually put some fish into my newly set up tank!

                      When I first bought the tank and other equipment (heater, filter, gravel, plants etc.) I set up the tank and you then have to leave it until the water quality is suitable to put fish straight into, which can take a few weeks. A good aquatics shop with knowledgeable staff is invaluable. The shop where I bought the tank from kept testing a sample of my fish tank water for free until it was suitable.

                      When the water quality is suitable you can then choose your fish. many tropical fish tank owners have some bottom feeding fish, some middle and some top feeding to best use the space in the tank. Some fish are naturally shoal species, so it is best to get a few of these at once. Some fish are not suitable for a community tank of mixed fish as they can bully and fin nip others. One of my silver tipped tetras used to chase the other fish and nip them, although the other one was fine so maybe I just got one with a bad personality!

                      Once the tank is set up and filled with fish it needs regular maintenance to keep it looking good and healthy for the fish. The front glass can become very green from algae so this will need scraping off. Too much algae may mean the fish are getting too much light so you can try cutting this down a bit too. The tank will need cleaning regularly. I had a gravel cleaner which syphoned off some water whilst cleaning the gravel, it was amazing how much dirt came out of it! Some of the water can then be replaced by fresh water, which has been treated to remove chlorine. The filter pads also need to be cleaned or replaced weekly.

                      I found that my tank had a problem with snails which must have come in on the plants, so it is best to wash these thoroughly before you introduce them to the tank, although they aren't harmful, just rather unsightly.

                      Fish are lovely to look at and a clean, well stocked tank with plenty of plants and other features is very attractive and relaxing to contemplate. But make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for before you take the plunge as they can be expensive and quite time consuming.


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                        10.05.2009 08:19
                        Very helpful



                        How we got into fishkeeping

                        Recently we have had a number of new additions to our family. We have become tropical fish owners after many hours of researching what we were getting into. Tropical fish are fish requiring warm water conditions and there are two varieties as I have discovered; freshwater and saltwater. I am at the start of my fish owning adventure so have freshwater fish - marine fish are really for the expert as requiring salt water.

                        If you are thinking of getting fish, hopefully the things that I have learned so far could be helpful to you - it has been quite a steep learning curve, I still have plenty to learn, so if you are the kind of expert fishkeeper who knows that RO and LFS is you might want to stop reading now!

                        My reasons for getting fish:

                        I've always found fish quite relaxing to look at and had been on many a local garden centre trip with my toddler to look at the fish.
                        Now I would have to hold my hand up and say I never thought I would have anything to say about pets - before I decided to investigate fish I hadn't had anything to do with pets for about 30 years when I had a much mourned hamster. I wanted to get pets that we could care for that wouldn't require quite the upkeep of a dog or cat. I soon learned that fish do require quite a commitment and that there are a lot of mistakes that new owners make, so before buying an aquarium or the fish I spent a lot of time researching online and talking to the staff in the fish shop - I would suggest anyone considering fish do the same.

                        Finding out about fish:

                        The first thing to know is that you can't just go into a shop, buy an aquarium and some fish, put them in and hope for the best. Tropical fish require a tank with a heater (water between 20-24 degrees and up depending on the species), a filter and more importantly water that has been dechlorinated and "cycled". This means that the water has to start going through the nitrogen cycle and build up a level of good bacteria that will render all the nasties from the fish harmless. If you don't know this at the start then you will end up with dead fish very quickly.

                        Good sources of research on the basics would be a fish shop - a good one will tell you all about this and will also test the water once you have your tank and tell you if it is ready for fish. Once it is you can start to build up your tank, a few fish at a time. A good source of information on this apart from your shop would be www.fishkeeping.co.uk or www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk. The latter is a magazine, which is a good read too, but they also have forums and also articles for beginners which will explain more than I will do here but which I found helpful. They understand that everyone has to start somewhere, and are a great source of help and support.

                        Apparently fish keeping is the most popular hobby in this country (who knew?), but many new keepers do give up as they haven't looked into it fully, so beware.

                        What you need:

                        If you are starting out the fish themselves will be the least of your expense. Starter tanks start at 35 litres, and then come in various sizes up to over 200 litres. Water is very heavy, so you will need a tank and a good stand. Because you are creating an artificial eco-system it is actually easier the bigger the tank you have so I plumbed for 75 litres (about 60cm long) rather than a smaller tank which would have limited the amount of fish too. I have been told that this is a good starter size but make sure you get a tank that will fit a space in your house, preferably not too much in the light as you will have an algae issue.

                        You will also need to buy a filter, heater and chemicals to dechlorinate the water, bucket for water change, a small net, a gravel cleaner and suction hose for water change. This is assuming you have gravel at the bottom of your tank, though you can use special sand.

                        We chose to go down the route of buying plants to help the tank cycle efficiently - it is generally agreed that this is better than doing everything with chemicals. We also, therefore, were advised to get a CO2 injection unit to help the plants thrive. Cost wise, including everything even for a smaller tank you are probably looking at £100-£150 by the time you have included everything. Many tanks will come with the filter and heater but items such as the gravel are suprisingly expensive (£30 for ours). Most tanks will also come with integrated lights, but again you could buy a basic tank and everything seperately.

                        I wouldn't necessarily advise buying a tank from ebay as you may find it is scratched or more expensive by the time you have bought everything else - there are many tanks on ebay as people buy a smaller one and then quickly upgrade, so again think of the size of tank you want carefully.

                        We did look at the biorbs - which are spherical tanks, but these seemed more expensive and some say they are harder to clean and not great for fish, they are great design items though and there are forums devouted to them, so they are popular with some people but were not for us - also if you are going to keep tropical fish in them the heater is very visible and will detract from the design value.

                        I have dealt mainly with Maidenhead Aquatics, who are a national chain, and found them very good actually, but hobbyists may tell you a local fish shop (that is what the LFS stands for by the way) is better, however we don't have that option here. They also have fish sections in other pet shops too, we visited a couple of branches of "Pets at Home" and found them quite helpful too,though the fish selection was a bit more limited.

                        You will also need a test kit for the water which is about £20, and we also bought a thermometer and a glass cleaner/scrubber. So quite a lot of kit before you have started, you may be able to get away with less items, but as I said before consider the fish the smallest expense.

                        Setting up:

                        Once you have your tank you wash everything very carefully in tap water (only time you will every use tap water), the gravel will require a lot of rinsing until it is not cloudy. You lay the gravel in the tank and add any plants, rocks from the fish shop and ornaments. If you are adding wood make sure it is a piece that has soaked in the fish shop or you will get brown water. You can then add a bacteria starter to kick start the cycle (experts talk about using amonia but I just followed the instructions which came with my starter set).

                        Now wait.

                        Wait some more.

                        After over a week we got our water tested, and as there was no amonia and the water was starting to build up good levels of everything else we were ready for our first fish.

                        The fish (at last):

                        As for the fish themselves, there is plenty to learn. You can choose to have one variety or, as I have, investigate community fish. This means making sure your species won't eat each other and are not going to get too big for the tank - again seek advice. We started with 3 Platy fish, progressed to a small shoal of tetra and will add cat fish once the tank is more mature, but the fish you choose is down to personal choice and again you can read up on the fish and see what other people have in their tanks. Be wary of overstocking and seek advice on this also, firstly it is cruel, and secondly the fish will not thrive. I am suprisingly attached to the fish and find them very relaxing to watch and more interesting than I thought.

                        We have two female platys and one male, they are quite active but love hiding in the plants too - my daughter is convinced they like us to wave our fins (ok arms) at them, they are great fish. Predictably, as being the most popular of tropical fish, we have a small shoal of neon tetras - you need to have a minimum of 5 as they like to be together. The latter fish we have not names as they all look the same, but we have named our other fish.

                        We have (touch wood) no casualties yet, a way into our journey, but are carrying on the learning process, I could say a lot more about the fish, but basically go and look at a good fish shop and see if you are drawn to them or not, and have fun working out for yourself which fish you think you would like. Prices will range from £1 up to £100 and more - obviously as a novice I have bought smaller and more hardy fish for beginners. Again the fish shop can advise, we have spent under £20 on fish but about £10 on upkeep after the intial outlay of course.


                        We haven't had any fish get ill yet, but there are a myriad of diseases fish can get, and this will increase upkeep. Apart from this you need to do partial water changes, and of course clean the glass - we haven't got any glass cleaning fish yet. You need to feed the fish once a day, a pinch of food - as much as they can consume in under 2 minutes. The light is switched on for 8 hours a day, but also you need electricity to run the heater and pump. The filter pump has to be cleaned in aquarium water every now and then too. We appear to have a pregnant platy, (they are livebearing fish - ie give birth to live fry), so again something we will have to learn about. Once our tank is more mature we will also vary the food we feed our fish from flakes to a more varied diet such as frozen fish food.


                        I am loving having tropical fish - far more than I thought I would. I hope that I haven't put you off, it is more complicated than I ever dreamed. There is a lot to learn, but hopefully if you are considering it you will find it as much fun as I and my family are. I thoroughly recommend fishkeeping as a hobby, it is a lot of fun!


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                          24.07.2007 17:40
                          Very helpful



                          Keeping fish is hard work but can be very rewarding

                          Having just moved a new aquarium in to my house it seems a good time to update this review which originally appeared on ciao.

                          A fish tank is an attractive addition to any room, I find that my tank is peaceful and relaxing to watch. But it is alot of work, to maintain and care for but as with many things a small amount of work regularly makes the whole process much easier.

                          Myself I have 4 aqauriums of varying sizes but the one that is currently set up is my 90 ltr Jewel. But my others are a 20ltr Goldies Home, a National Geographic with a volume of around 8ltr, and my largest a 150 ltr homemade one I aquired from a school and has just moved in with me.

                          If you are buying an aqaurium I would recommend nothing smaller than a 20ltr as the large the volume the greater the water stability (you need to change the water less frequently in theory, and it maintains the water temperature better). Personally after keeping cold water fish for a few months I moved and in the process my fish suffered and sadly all died, so when I went to the shop to replace them I saw a display of Guppies and fell in love with the little bright fish.

                          Asking the sales man about the extra things I would require to keep them led me to the purchase of a 50watt heater and budget air pump, along with the fish. But as I didnt know what I was doing I managed to kill these fish fairly quickly. So after a chance discovery of another aquarium shop (Cascades near Ripon), I bought a few more fish but once again they died fairly quickly - in a matter of weeks. But in this time I had also purchased a second hand Jewel Reckord 90ltr with the accessories for it to be a tropical set up, I paid just £60 for what if I'd purchased it in a shop would have been nearer £200 worth of kit (tank with hood and light, two filters one which is the Jewel one that came with the tank and an IPF Duo with aeration, a 75 watt heater and several books on fish keeping plus carbon for the filters and filter sponges and an electric driven cleaning vaccuum).

                          From the books and talking to the sales assistant at Cascades I found out what my problems with my fish were, and started again with my aqauriums.

                          Once you buy your aquarium, you need to find somewhere safe to keep it, but this should be a factor in you choosing what style tank to get. You can buy aquariums with stands and cabinets or just sit them on strong level furniture. Obviously some of the equipment can be noisy so you may want to consider the cabinet options where you can keep the noisy stuff in them to reduce the sound, or you can place noisy items like air pumps on to something like a mouse mat to reduce the noise.

                          ***Set up***

                          Once you know where to keep the aquarium you need to ensure that the surface is clean as any bits of grit could crack the base of the tank, many shops sell compressed polystyrene pads to put under an aquarium. If you want to use normal houshold furniture you need to be sure it is strong enough to take the weight of a full tank (eg my Jewel when full has 90kg of water in it, plus the 10kg of gravel, equipment and the tank itself so needs to be on a very strong surface), also it needs to be near to plug sockets, though you will need to use a multiplug extension (at least 4 extra sockets) as each item needs its own power source, light, heater, filter, and air pump.

                          Place your gravel in to the aqaurium, add the equipment, heaters filters any extra aeration and the tank decorations (plants, rocks, etc). Add the water, rather than just letting the water sit for 24 hours as most people know to do, I would recommend treating the water with a solution like Tetrafin AquaSafe or Safe Start, these are solutions designed to remove the chemicals which are dangerous to fish like chlorine, ammonia, nitrates. They also help protect fish by introducing elements to reduce stress and protect the fish from infections (though what they are is not specified).

                          It is also recommended to let the tank cycle before you stock it, this means having it totally up and running for around a week, including 'feeding' the aquaium by this I mean putting a pinch of food in to it daily, so the filters have time to build up the good bacteria needed to make the aquarium safe for fish.

                          Also vital is making sure that the water temperature is stable at the recommended temperature for the fish you want to keep usually around 24 degrees for Tropicals though some species may have more specific needs and should be checked when you purchase them.

                          After a week or more with the equipment running faultlessly and the water temperature is stable it is time to think about buying your fish. Some retailers will let you reserve fish when you buy the tank but this is only really common when you want to stock expensive fish, for common types, small angel fish, tetras, barbs etc this isn't usual.

                          I have to admit now that setting up my aqaurium's originally, I didn't follow these steps I think this is why my first few fish had died so quickly, but after starting to follow the steps I've not lost any fish since. But I expected to lose some after I moved again a couple of months after setting up the newer aquarium but luckily didn't.


                          So the aquarium being fully set up is ready for your fish. If you happen to be in the Harrogate/Ripon area try Cascades garden and aqautic centre (from Harrogate head to Killinghall, and follow for Ripon) In Bolton try the Little Marina Aquarium on Tonge Moor Road (pass B.A.S heading out of town, the shop looks scruffy but cant be beated for advice and quality of fish stock).

                          I wouldn't recommend buying expensive fish to start off with nor very cheap ones, I went for mid priced species in the Jewel, and got 2 pairs of Angel fish (Crystal Neon and Diamond), and 7 Tiger Barbs as I already had 4 Neon Tetras surviving from my older tank. The old school tank had when I started caring for it only 4 fish left a neon tetra, a swordtail, and two I havent been able to identify, so my first additions were 5 small neon tetras. A week or so later I added 2 very small black marbled angelfish, followed by 5 Emperor Tetras a few weeks later - this is still understocked in that I can add more fish safely should I choose too, but the shoal of tetras looks stunning and I feel that more additions would make it seem overcrowded.

                          You should tell the sales assistant the size of aquarium you have they should be able to let you know the best numbers of fish to keep, as over stocking can potentially cause your fish to be starved of oxygen and drown, also when setting up a new aquarium you should add fish slowly, a few at a time to avoid overloading the filters with toxic wastes like ammonia produced by the fish.

                          Maintaining the aquarium is simple but can be time consuming, you need to clean the glass and make sure the equipment is working at least on a weekly basis.
                          Once a month you need to do a partial water change, and rinse the filter sponges, this is best done at the same time as you need to rinse the sponges in aquarium water to retain the good bacteria in them.
                          Also it is a good idea to purchase a basic testing kit to test for nitrates and ammonia to keep it at safe levels for your fish.

                          ***Moving with fish***

                          As I have moved several times while keeping my fish I felt it might be a good idea to offer my advice on the best ways to move home with them. Of course when you buy fish they are put in to plastic bags, then transferred to your aquarium, but you cant always do this subsequently, so I have been using large plastic cereal storers (from any supermarket) as they are water proof and as they have a flat base and squared sides can be packed in a way to ensure their stability, the best place to pack them is either inside the emptied clean aqaurium with some sort of padding to stop them sliding around or if as I did behind my car seat with towels around them to stop them rattling, the smoother you can make the journey the better as fish are susceptible to stress on these occasions and the less stress they suffer the more likely they are to live longer.

                          The larger the container you can use the more of their established water will be taken to their new home which is to be recommended, also you need to keep the water temperature as stable as possible which is better achieved with some kind of insulation (for padding use towels or fabric as this will also insulate the fish) as well as a larger volume of water retaining the heat better.

                          Once in the new location they need to be put back in to the aquarium as soon as possible so get the fish indoors and set up the tank again, the more of the original water you could retain the better, add new water as though doing a water change but it is essential to get the heater back in to the aqaurium to rewarm the water as soon as possible, also if your aquarium has lights try to use them as little as possible again to reduce the stress on the fish.

                          In the case of the school tank I replaced the gravel and equipment then placed the cereal storers in the tank as I refilled the aquarium, as soon as the water covered the heater switch this back on, the combined effect is that as the heater heats the water in the tank and the water in the storers at the same time minimising the temperature difference in the two. As I added the fresh water I also added AquaSafe.


                          People say that fish have no personality but I believe they do if you pay enough attention to them, for example one of my smallest male tiger barbs tends to herd the other 6 away from the side of the tank I'm sitting at (so I call him Andy - trying to keep me for himself, lol), one pair of the Crystal Neon Angel Fish are much more sedate than the Diamond Angel Fish who in turn prefer being nearer the plants than the rocky area, while when I had Guppies I had one which always wanted to be behind some part of the aquascaping or other when the others were happier out front. In the school tank the swordtail and 2 unidentified fish are almost always lurking near the feeding hole in the lid, while the tetras love playing around the 'shipwreck' and the angels tend to lurk in the plants.

                          My aquariums were always kept in my room at Harrogate and for a while the 90ltr Jewel got moved to my mums house, where even she who has no interest in fish or fish keeping managed to keep them alive with very little effort (barring the tetras she 'lost' and the two older angels one of which burned itself on the heater, the other apparently stopped eating after its partner died and died a week later), there have been a few times I've wanted to scream at her over the phone when shes asked silly or strange questions but a few books on tropical fish and fishkeeping along with my subscription to Practical Fishkeeping have kept her right.


                          Since fish rely on you for everything it is important to feed them the right food, I tend to feed a combination of flake food and pellets. The flakes I prefer are Aquarian, but the pellets are King British, I find that King British flakes are smaller and smellier as well as more expensive. It is recommended to feed a small pinch of flakes twice a day but no more than the fish will eat. Some fish will also appreciate being fed small amounts of lettuce leaves or crumbled hard boiled egg for variety - fine I found ignored these offerings so I am unlikely to try them in the school tank.

                          Given that I feed a combination of food I feed flakes once a day and pellets the other time. The larger fish like the angels seem to enjoy chasing the pellets as they fall through the water column while the others like to catch the flakes at the surface. But if you over feed that old food will decay at the bottom of the tank and cause the water quality to deteriorate. Under feeding on the other hand will obviously starve your friends.

                          ***Treating Illness***
                          After reclaiming the fish one of my Angels fell sick, again sickness in aquaria must be treated quickly or you risk losing all the fish. Asking advice from someone at a specialist store should usually help although information is avaliable online. In this case it seemed to be a case of 'Pop Eye' where bacteria living around and behind the eye cause infection making the eyes pop, after the initial non painful looking swelling it went red and bloody, the fish stopped feeding and soon died despite being treated quickly. Medications are avaliable for most types of illness, a range I like is the Interpet No range which has treatments for everything from Snail Infestation to White Spot and Bacterial Infections.

                          More common are 'white spot' or 'velvet' fungal diseases commonly found in retail aquaria which can disfigure or kill fish without treatment, symptoms are simple to diagnose fish will have white spots on them or velvet like markings.

                          ***Books or Publications***
                          Personally as I started fish keeping seriously after begining to study Marine Bioloigy I didnt think I would need to get any books on the subject but I was wrong. I would recommend buying a good quality fish identification book, I like the RSPCA tropical fish book for basic information, as well as having a subscription to Practical Fish Keeping, a magazine which covers all types of fish keeping and is published monthly.

                          Now my aquaria are both running smoothly it seems odd to think I never had them, the Jewel which is on my desk in my bedroom thankfully runs quieter than the school one in my living room mainly because it doesnt have a separate air pump (these can be very noisy). Being able to sit on the sofa and watch the fish swimming around in the aquarium I find very relaxing.


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                            08.06.2007 23:31
                            Very helpful



                            Hard work pays off

                            Fish Tanks look fantastic and are a talking point in many homes, but only if they are set up right and looked after properly. So many people buy a fish tank, and fish, set it all up without learning anything about them and then get angry with the pet shops when things go wrong. Keeping a tropical fish tank isn't easy and there is quite alot of work involved.
                            I worked in a pet shop, running the fish department, at the time Finding Nemo came out, and the amount of parents with children in tow, coming in on a daily basis for a "Nemo fish" was unreal. "Nemo Fish", or clown fish using their proper name are not tropical, nor coldwater fish. They are marine fish. Marine fish take 3 times the work of a tropical fish tank. I have kept fish for 15 years, and ran a fish department dealing with 2500 fish in 35 tanks per week, and I wouldn't know where to start with Marine fish. So I will stick with tropical on this review, I just wanted to get this in, with Finding Nemo, as people still ask for these fish for goldfish bowls to this day.
                            Here is my advice on tropical fishkeeping, along with tank set-up, breeds and maintenance. I apologise for the length of this review, but there really is alot of information to fit in for anyone that looks this topic up on Dooyoo.

                            ```Equipment Needed````

                            A basic list of what you will need, you can buy kits with everything, or most things already in but just so everything is remembered I will list everything seperately and I will explain what each item is for as we go through the review:

                            Tank (For tropical fish, at least 24x12 inches)
                            Cabinet for the tank to go on
                            Tank Lid
                            Breakfast bowl
                            Polystyrene pads
                            Gravel or other suitable substrate
                            Plants (ideally live, just as cheap)
                            Filter and Air Pump
                            Rocks, tank ornaments
                            Gravel Cleaner
                            Light and light power pack.
                            Water thermometer
                            Bacterial water treatment
                            Aquarium salts
                            White Spot treatment

                            ```Starting off```

                            You have got your tank, and cabinet. The cabinet cannot just be any old cabinet, even if it is pretty sturdy as a fish tank full of water and stones weighs alot, and it is surprising how many people make this mistake. Working at a pet shop for 4 years, we had numerous people come in and say their tank had smashed and all the fish had died as a result of not having a strong enough cabinet. Specially made fish-tank cabinets are available from most aquarium stockists, and these are made with stronger wood and reinforced joints and screws. You also need polystyrene pads to go under your tank to absorb any pressure, unless stated on a specifically made cabinet. You can buy these from most pet shops for around 50p per 12x12 inch sheet. If you dont have these, and a little stone or piece of gravel is between your tank and cabinet, the pressure caused by this stone, when you fill the tank up can cause the tank to shatter, so the poly pads absorb the pressure so this won't happen.
                            You need to decide where you are going to put the tank. Near a window, or source of heat is a complete no-go as the heat/sunlight will only make algae grow, and before you know it your tank will be green. You also need an area where the temperature doesn't fluctuate too much and somewhere that is fairly peaceful. Fish in general don't like stress and a place where people will be walking past the tank all the time will only stress the fish out, leading to disease. Your tank does need a little natural light, but not too much, so getting the balance right here is important. Make sure the inside of the tank is clean, and never use any detergants to wipe it or clean in out before use, as the chemicals will stick to the glass, and poison your fish.
                            Also, make sure you have enough plug sockets available within reach of the tank! I made the stupid mistake of doing this the first time I got a tank. I set it all up and realised the nearest plug socket was on the other side of the room. You will need at least 3 plugs to be plugged in 24 hours a day, so this is an imortant one!
                            Once you have the tank and cabinet in place, we are ready for the next part.

                            ```Setting Up The Tank````

                            **You first of all need to prepare your substrate (the floor of your tank). Most people use gravel, but you can use sand too, although this is better left for the more expert of fishkeeper as it is very difficult to maintain. (I'm not brave enough to use sand in my tank yet). Tip your gravel into a sieve and run cold water through it for around 40 minutes. It states on the back of the packet of most aquarium gravel, around 15 minutes but this is never enough, as the dust on the gravel still makes the water cloudy. You aim is to get rid of as much gravel dust as you possibly can. After you have done this, carefully scoop (I use an old plastic cup), your gravel into the tank, being gentle for obvious reasons. Try to slant your gravel so it is approximatly 5 inches high at the back and 2 inches high at the front. The reason you slant the gravel, is that is makes cleaning the tank and tank maintenance easier once established (see later in the review).

                            **Time for the filter and pump. You can buy a 2 in 1 filter and pump, or you can buy them seperate. I find the Fluval filters and pumps in one are fantastic value, and are readily available, along with the spare parts. Place your filter/pump/seperates into the tank, but never plug them in. They are only designed to work in water, and again we had numerous people coming into the pet shop I worked in for replacement filters as they had plugged them in out of water and they had blown. The same goes for the heater. Place this on the back wall of the tank, and an angle of 45 degrees. The 45 degree angle gives the best possible even output of heat. Again, do not plug in. Feed the 2/3 wires, over your tank, down the back, and create a "drip loop". This means that you need the wire to hang below the plug socket in a "loop shape". This way if any water is spilt and it runs down the wire, it will drip onto the floor from the loop in the wire, instead of running down the wire and straight into the plug socket.

                            **If you have purchased a lightbulb for your tank, and you have a specially made tank lid with your tank, then you probably have a fitment inside the lid to clip your bulb into. If not, then lighting clips are available and you simply screw them into the lid and then clip the bulb in place. Connect your powerpack up to the bulb, and again create yourself a driploop. I cannot go into great detail about the powerpacks, as I have had 3 different ones over the years, and all 3 are completely different, but they always have instructions anyway. Always use a flurescent tube for your bulb as this not only looks the nicest, but it is also the most beneficial one to your fish.

                            **Plants are essential to a healthy aquarium and it is better to use live plants, again available from most good pet shops, as they provide oxygen in the water and give your fish somewhere to hide. They also help to "eat up" some of the nitrates in the tank, created by fish waste and uneaten food. Plants don't need much care in a fish tank either, and are easy to maintain. They are also very nutritional for the fish, and some plants, especially the grassy plants will get eaten quite quickly, so I tend to stick to the more "leafy" type plants, which the fish tend to leave alone. Different sized plants can also create space and depth in your tank. For example, if you put a taller plant at the back of the tank, and a shorter one at the front, this gives an illusion of your tank looking bigger than it actually is. Play around with the plants, and find where you want to put them, and just dig their roots into the gravel.

                            **Rocks and ornaments, like plants, also give the fish somewhere to hide, and choosing the right ones can make your tank look beautiful and just add that finishing touch. There are hundreds of different ones available, but don't use any old item or ornamant, as fish tank ornaments are coloured with non-harmful paints, which won't poison your fish. Also be aware that if you chose bogwood as a decor item, it contains a natural high level of Tannin, and this can turn your a water yellow/brown colour so bogwood needs soaking for at least 48 hours before putting in a fish tank. Personally I have never bothered with bogwood as I find it more trouble than it is worth.

                            **I bet you wondered why on earth there was a breakfast bowl in the "whats needed" list at the beginning of this review. Place the breakfast bowl in a gap on the gravel in your aquarium, and using preferably a hose pipe, otherwise lots of trips back and to with a jug, fill your tank, using the breakfast bowl to pour your water onto. This stops the floor of the tank being disturbed, and also prevents disturbing any missed gravel dust from the earlier washing of the gravel. Allow the water to spill over from the bowl, onto the gravel, and this helps the water to stay crystal clear. Fill all the way up, leaving around 2 inches at the top, or on most tanks they have a "fill line".

                            ***Turn all pumps, heaters, filters, lights on to make sure everything is working okay. You should be seeing air bubbles in the tank, somewhere, along with seeing that the filter is working as you will be able to see the current in the water. Your heater should be set to approx 26ºC. Most heaters have a thermometer on them so you can physically see what they are set at. It is better to also have a thermometer on your tank (you can buy ones that go inside the tank and stick on the inner wall with a suction pad, or a sticker thermometer than goes on the outside wall of the tank). I think the internal thermometers are better, as the external ones tend to take the temperature of the room into consideration too, and therefor are not very accurate. It will take around 6 hours for the water to steady itself at the correct temperature.

                            ```The Waiting Game```

                            Your tank is all set up and you are ready to go. Now is the frustrating part! As tempting as it is to go and get yourself some fish for the tank - don't! You need to wait at least a week to allow the water to settle, gain a level PH level. You now need to treat your water ideally, to get the right level of bacteria in your tank so the tank develops it's own kind of eco-system. There is a constant cycle in fish tanks, with Nitrates, Nitrites, and Amonia. This treatment will start the cycle off and will be completed in around 7 days time when the filter has enough "good bacteria" stored in the filter pads. If you add fish straight away they are pretty much certain to die. This is something worth reading up on as it is quite complex, and would take me all day to explain it, which is quite hard to do without being able to draw a diagram. To put your mind at rest, take a sample of water from your tank after 7 days (around an egg cup full) and take it to any Pets At Home store, or any good aquarium shop and they should do a free water test for you. They test the PH, nitrates, nitrites and amonia levels to make sure you have the right balance, and if not, they advice on what you can do. Sometimes the answer is very simple.
                            On the 5th day, place some white spot treatment into the tank, as this can help maintain the balance as well as providing a barrier for your fish, as this can prevent them from getting the White Spot disease.
                            On the 7th day (I'm beginning to sound like a Christmas song), place some aquarium salts into the tank. This will prevent your new fish getting any other diseases on arrival and is very good for the "cycle" in your tank.
                            Now.. you are ready for the fish.

                            ```There Is So Much Choice!```

                            It is best to start off your tank with around 6 neon tetras. These fish are hardy and can stand water conditions that are slightly off standard, so if you haven't got it quite right your fish have a better chance of surviving. It is normal to lose a few fish in the first few weeks with a new tank. You then need to introduce fish, every 7 days, around 4 at a time, if possible having a tank water test inbetween each batch of fish. You can buy a water testing kit to do this yourself if you wish for around £15.
                            Each time you add new fish to the tank it raises the waste (nitrate, nitrite and amonia), level and this is effectively poison to your fish. The natural "cycle" in your tank naturally turns this around, but if you overload on waste in your tank the fish will be poisoned, and will probably die. If you only add a few fish at a time then these waste levels never go up too high. If you add 20 fish to a small new tank, chances are by the following morning they will all be dead.
                            The following breeds of fish I am going to advise on are ideal for a first-time fish keeper, and are all compatable with one another, ideal for a community tank.

                            Generally a hardy fish, and come in lots of different varieties and colours. As mentioned, neon tetras are one of the best fish to start off with. These fish are happier in schools of around 5 or 6 per type of tetra. These fish swim around in groups for safety in numbers. If you only added one tetra to a tank, chances are it would be bullied, or just get so stressed, it would get ill and die.

                            Mollies are again schooling fish, but you don't need as many. It is important with Mollies that you check the sex of these fish. You can do this by checking the anal fin (underneath the fish), if the fin goes back into a point, this is a male, if it goes back into a triangle shape, this is a female. This is really important as these fish breed like crazy - they are certainly the rabbits of the fish world! Each litter of babies can contain upto 20 offspring, and before you know it your tank is full. This of course builds up excess waste in your tank, and can poison the rest of your fish. Alot of the time the babies get eaten by other fish, or stuck in the filter, but they can survive and before you know it these fish have taken over your tank.

                            Guppies are lovely fish, and are very peaceful. The males have brightly coloured long tails, in a variety of colours, such as gold, electric blue, red, yellow, white, silver and some rainbow guppies which contain every colour possible! The females are similar size and shape, but don't have these long bright tails and fins. These fish don't breed as well as Mollies, but they will still breed. If you are going to keep males and females it is important to have a ratio of 3 females to 1 male. If you have any more males to the females, the males fight for attention of the female, which results in torn fins, and stress to the other fish in the tank.

                            You would think sharks would be agressive in a tropical tank, but I assure you they are very very peaceful, especially Silver Sharks. It is really important to only ever have one shark per tank as they are terrortorial with their own species. 2 sharks in one tank will fight to the death, and stress out all of the other fish.

                            You do have to be careful when choosing Catfish, and one of the most popular types is a Plecostomous. These are bottom feeders, who live off algae and bacteria in the tank. You need to only get a catfish once your tank is established (at least 6 weeks), as there won't be enough algae or bacteria for the catfish to feed off. You can however get around this by buying catfish pellets to feed them on, but these can be quite expensive and don't have a great shelf life. A Plecostomous will also grow up to 2 feet in length. Most fish will only grow to the size the tank allows them to grow, but a Plecostomous will keep growing and growing untill it's tail is sticking out of the tank. This will take a long time, possibly years, but it is something to think about. There are many other types of catfish available which stay quite small and they are great at eating all the uneaten food than sits at the bottom of the tank, which helps with the "natural cycle".

                            **Japanese Fighters*
                            I feel I have to mention these fish, as they are known as a peaceful community fish. They are very peaceful, provided they are kept with the right species. You can only have one per tank, as if 2 males are put together they will fight to the death. As they have long, bright flowing tails and fins, they will also attack any other fish that has long, bright, flowing tails, as they mistake it for another male fighter. If you put a Japanese Fighter in with male guppies, it will tear them to shreds. If you put them in with tiny neon tetras, they will all live happily ever after. They really are a beautiful fish, as long as they are kept correctly.

                            The breeds of fish I have just briefly talked about are only a few of the different types of fish available. These breeds though, I think are the best ones to start off with. Always check in the pet shop when buying your fish that they are compatible with what you already have. There are so many breeds that clash, and just one mistake can lose you your entire stock of fish.


                            Building the tank up and getting it established is the hard part. The easiest part is looking after it.

                            Feeding - The golden rule is never overfeed your fish. When you feed them, feed a little at a time, and make sure this as all been eaten before adding anymore. A pinch of tropical flakes each day is plenty. It may seem that your fish are eating it all in one go, but most breeds actually digest what they need and then spit the rest out, which sinks into the gravel creating excess waste (poisoned water). Once a week I feed my fish live bloodworm - I buy this in small frozen blocks - which is available from most pet shops. Live food is a great source of protein and essential nutrients for fish and really does them good. You get alot of waste from this though, so I always do this the day before a partial water change (see next part).
                            Health - Check all you fish look healthy (see later in review for how to do this), and that there are no dead fish, and check that the heater and electricals are all working okay.
                            The light on your fish tank should only be on for around 8 hours a day, anymore and your tank will be covered in green algae before you know it.

                            Cleaning - Each week you need to do a particial water change using a gravel cleaner. The gravel cleaner (around £4 from most pet shops), acts as a mini hoover for the bottom of the tank. This also takes water out to enable you to do a partial water change, so you will need an empty bucket. Right the way back near the beginning of the review, i mentioned about sloping the gravel, so it is higher at the back, and lower and the front and this was the reason why. Gradually fish faeces and uneaten food tend to fall down the slope of gravel down to the front of the tank, so not only can you notice it needs doing, the waste is easy to remove. You can concentrate on the front of the tank and clean it thoroughly, and then just skim over the gravel in the rest of the tank. When the gravel cleaner is working it's magic, of course it is removing water from the tank at the same time. Remove around 1/3 of the tank water and then stop. If you remove anymore you will upset the balance of the tank too much. If it is really dirty, repeat this process in around 2 days time.
                            Using a sponge, with of course no detergents or cleaning agents on, wipe the insides of the tank walls to remove any algae.
                            Fill the tank back up with cold tap water. Some people say this is harmful to the fish, but I have done this for years and have never ever had a problem. Lastly add a dose of aquarium salts to the water.
                            Plants - Remove any dead leaves from plants, or any that are brown and slimy looking.

                            When doing your gravel clean and partial water change on your tank, every 4th week, save the bucket of dirty tank water. Remove the filter pads from your filter and rinse them out using the dirty water. This way none of the "good bacteria" is washed away and keeps a steady balance in the tank.
                            Replace any live plants.

                            **Every 3 Months**
                            Replace the filter pads in your filter. These should be available to buy, where ever you bought the filter from. Because your filter is the "eco-system" for your tank, just putting a new filter pad in and throwing the old one away would completely upset the balance in your tank. Replace the old filter pad, but float the old filter pad in the water for 24 - 48 hours to get the "good bacteria" levels up in the new pads. Alot of the newer filters available now have 3 or 4 filter pads, which enables you to only change one at a time. These newer filters have been made this way for this very reason.

                            ```Sick Fish?```
                            So each day you need to do a quick scan to make sure your fish are healthy.
                            Things to look out for:
                            White spot - This is a disease called White Spot, and they simply look like tiny pin head size white marks on the fish's fins, tail and/or body. This is disease is potentially fatal but is treated quite easily if noticed quickly. The main cause of this is stress.
                            Fungus - This is commonly mistaken for White Spot, but the symptoms of this are usually clumps of white on the fish, instead of pin-head spots. Fungus spreads quite quickly and can affect the entire body, or just one area. Again, this is easy to treat. The main cause is stress.
                            Finrot - Fins on the fish appear jagged, or torn. The name is in the disease, the fins just basically rot away. This disease is commonly linked to Fungus, and the treatment for this comes as a dual purpose one, more often than not, as a "fungus and finrot treatment. Again easy to treat and the main cause is stress.
                            Swimbladder - This disease affects the way the fish swims. Swimbladder is when a fish loses it's sense of balance in the water, and if a disease or infection affects the swimbladder, the fish usually looks very bloated and it is quite obvious to see the fish is struggling to stay upright. Fish can float upsidedown in a tank, and people often think they are about to die, but with a swimbladder treatment they can often be saved. Again the main cause is stress.
                            Lack of air - If fish are "gasping" at the top of the tank and sometimes you can hear a faint popping sound, this usally means the fish aren't getting enough oxygen. Check the air pump is working okay, and you may have to invest in a more powerful pump. Add more live plants to the tank to create more oxygen. You can also buy oxygen tablets for fish tanks from most pet shops at around £1.50 for about 20 tablets.

                            These are just the most common fish diseases and you will have probably noticed that they are mainly brought on my stress. When a fish is stressed the immune system completely drops and this is when they develop these diseases. The biggest cause of stress is too much waste (ammonia, nitrates and nitrites), which is as I said earlier, uneaten food and fish faeces. This can be prevented by following the daily, weekly, and monthly routines above.

                            The other easiest ways to keep your fish stressfree are as follows:
                            *Never allow children to bang on the glass of a tank.
                            *Always take the fish straight home after purchasing them. Try to make the time they have in the bag as short as possible.
                            *Never overfeed them
                            *Do regular water changes
                            *Don't add too many fish at once
                            *Keep the right breeds together
                            *Get schools of the same breeds
                            *Test the water on a regular basis.

                            ```The Cost```
                            In all a tank and all the set up would usually cost around £300. The maintenance of this is fairly low from a financial point of view, but expect to spend around £10 a month on average, for food, treatments, and extras. Of course the biggest cost is electric as you are running a light, heater, filter and pump.

                            When you are used to these routines, or have developed your own routine fish keeping really is a breeze. Once you know the basics, you can advance and advance. The reward for all of your hard work is a beautiful tank, with beautiful healthy fish for all the family to enjoy looking at. Fish tanks are peaceful, and relaxing and if done right, a joy to all the family.

                            Thanks for reading and I hope this helps anyone wishing to start up a tropical fish tank.

                            ```For The Record```
                            If you chose to follow any of my advice on fish keeping you will do so at your own risk, and I have no involvement or any responsibility for an unfortunate event, mishap or mistake due to my advice given. What you read here, is not rules of fishkeeping set in stone, and anything lost because of this advice I am in no way resposible for.


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                              06.06.2005 10:02
                              Very helpful



                              After watching Finding Nemo and Shark's Tale my children just happened to remember that we used to have an fish tank filled to the brim with tropical fish, and started to ask if we could have another one. Now, as we've done this previously, we know just how expensive it is to set up and keep a good home for tropical fish as well as how much pleasure that can be gained from watching our finned friends going about their daily life. So we thought why not, and started preparations ready for the big day when we would go to the aquatic centre to buy a multitude of fishy pets.

                              And now I'm going to attempt to guide you through the experience of buying and setting up your first, very own fresh water tropical fish community.

                              ---The Tank---

                              The size of tank that you need will depend on how many and what type of fish you want to keep. We'd previously had a four footer, but this worked out very expensive to keep, so this time we bought a two foot tank that actually came supplied in a cabinet, with the lighting, heater and filter included. Personally, I can't recommend this route enough, as nearly everything is already in place, all we needed to buy was the water conditioner, gravel, ornaments, food and of course fish.

                              If you don't go for the complete route you will need to not only buy the tank, but will also need a hood (preferably with a light), a heater, temperature strip, filter and a sturdy stand (a full tank is very heavy) as well as the items mentioned above.

                              ---Setting The Tank Up---

                              Once you've got your tank home, you will need to start preparing it for your fish and this is done in stages the first of which is to give the interior of the tank a good clean with plain water (don't use any chemicals as most of them are dangerous to fish) then you can start preparing the various items that you will be putting in the tank starting with :


                              There are lots of different types of gravel to choose from, including plain white stones, multi-coloured ones or even glass pebbles. I personally used multi-coloured gravel with a few of the coloured glass pebbles added to give a more interesting look.

                              The first thing you need to do with the gravel is rinse it in plain water, and you'll notice the water going cloudy as the dust is washed off, so you'll need to empty the water away and re-rinse until the water is clear. You can then arrange the gravel at the bottom of your tank, I like to arrange the gravel in little hillocks and valleys rather than just flat as it looks far more interesting.

                              --Half Fill The Tank--

                              You can now fill the tank half-way with tap water, I find it's actually better to fill a clean bucket with water and leave it overnight as this gives some time for at least some of the chlorine to dissipate. I then use a jug to gently pour the water into the tank, keeping a note of how much water I've actually added (ready for conditioning). Once the tank is half full then you can start adding the…


                              After you've arranged your gravel, it's a good idea to think about whether you want to add real plants or their plastic counterparts. I must admit I took the easy option here and chose plastic (which again need to be washed prior to placing in the tank) but you can buy plenty of different plants that can be planted in a tank. Either way, it's pretty essential to add one sort or the other as they not only add interest, but also provide places for fish to hide (as well as food if they're of the real variety).

                              --Other Ornaments--

                              There are a number of different items you can also add at this stage to add to the interest level and provide more places for the fish to hide. We have one of those corny bridges along with a piece of driftwood. No matter what you buy again they will need to be thoroughly cleaned before being introduced to the tank, especially driftwood (which needs to be soaked to get rid of any salt, unless you buy it ready prepared). My personal preference is to use boiling water, to get rid of any bacteria.

                              --Fill The Tank--

                              Once you have everything arranged as you like it then it's time to finally fill the tank completely. Well maybe not completely, in fact I would make sure there's just enough room for you to be able to put your hand to the bottom without the tank actually overflowing. As before keep a record of how much water you've added, because now it's time to add the conditioner. Different conditioners have different instructions for use, but most will say to add a certain amount per litre of water, so follow the instructions on the bottle you've bought.

                              * Chlorine such as is present in tap water is poisonous to fish and the conditioner will help remove it.

                              --Switch On--

                              Once the tank is filled and the water conditioned it's time to turn on your lighting, heating and filtration system and then I'm afraid you need to wait for about a week before you can start adding any fish. This gives time for the water to warm, settle and balance before you start introducing such things as fish poo to the mix, as well as providing ample chance to make sure everything works properly.

                              ---Choosing Your Fish---

                              Once your tank is prepared it's time to go to the "fish shop" to choose which species you want to start adding to the tank. Now I personally prefer to go to a specialist aquatic centre to buy my fish, as there's always staff on hand to give me expert advice, but you can also buy them from many pet shops. Either way, before you even think of buying any fish, have a close look at all the different tanks. Are there any dead fish floating about on the surface? And do the fish look in good condition? If the answer to the first question is yes or the second no, then I would suggest buying your fish elsewhere.

                              Once you've found a shop that appears to be selling healthy fish it's time to look at which ones you want to buy, so I'll talk you through some of the different species I've personally bought :


                              There are lots of different types of Tetras and they are one of my favourite tropical fish (and one of the easiest to look after). As a shoaling fish you need to buy a number together (I have eight in my tank), but you can buy several different types and they'll be perfectly happy. One of the most common is the neon tetra, which is mainly red, with a blue flash that catches the light impressively, as well as these I have lemon tetras which are very pale yellow. All of these are fun fish that will even follow your finger if you move it backwards and forwards across the length of the tank.


                              To add variety to the shoal you can add some danios, we have a couple of different varieties in our tank including, zebra danios which are perhaps the easiest to find and have dark blue stripes on a silver body.

                              --Red Tailed Shark--

                              It always impresses when you tell people you've got a shark in your aquarium, even if it is only a couple of inches long. These black fish with striking red tails can be aggressive, and I would only really buy one for a tank and even then would never mix them with long finned fish such as guppies.


                              While guppies are beautiful fish with (in the case of the males) long flowing tails, I personally wouldn't recommend keeping any females, for the simple reason that they breed like nobodies business. When we kept these we ended up with literally hundreds of babies, and in the end decided that we could no longer have females. The trouble is that if you keep the males on their on they tend to fight and attack each others tail.

                              --Clown Loaches--

                              These are bottom dwellers and look as if they are Nemo's cousins. Being orange with black stripes they look very beautiful and a pair is a good addition to any tank, not only because of their looks, but also because they will actually help clean any waste food from the bottom of the tank.


                              As well as loaches to help clean the tank, a catfish of any kind is a good idea. I personally have a leopard catfish, which not only looks nice with it's black spots on a greyish brown body, but it also does an excellent job of cleaning any algae that forms on the sides of the tank.

                              There are of course many other varieties of fish available, but as this is intended to be a beginners guide to setting up (and running) an aquarium, it would not be very wise to start recommending fish that take a greater amount of care, and to be honest you can create an interesting and healthy aquarium with just these varieties.

                              I suppose this would be a good point to warn you not to buy all your fish in one go, it's far better to introduce just one or two varieties at a time, and certainly no more than six fish at once. This is because it will take your tank time to balance out after each group are introduced, as they will add chemicals just because they poo.

                              ---Introducing Your Fish---

                              Once you've got your fish home, it's so tempting to just open the bag and dump them in the tank, but don't. If you do this you're likely to end up with some very dead fish, a far better plan is to lift the hood and then place the sealed bag(s) on the top of the water. Now go and have a well earned cup of tea and watch the TV for quarter of an hour or so, before going back opening the bags and adding a little of the aquarium water before re-sealing the bags. Then wait another quarter of an hour before finally releasing the fish into the aquarium.

                              ---Caring For Your Fish---

                              Once your fish are settled in their new home it's time to start caring for them. They are very undemanding pets, and only ask for a clean, warm home with just the right amount of food.

                              The heater in my tank is controlled by a thermostat, which means I don't have to worry about turning it on and off, but just to make sure it's not too hot or cold I have a temperature strip attached to the side of the tank (you can buy these in most pet/aquatic shops). We only have the light on during the day, and the clever little fish have learnt that when the light goes on it's time for their first feed.

                              I feed my fish tropical fish food that can be bought in lots of places (including Wilkinsons) very cheaply and feed them twice a day, making sure I only add as much food as they will eat within a couple of minutes. (If you over-feed them you will end up poisoning the water).

                              To keep the tank clean, I simply remove about 10% of the water and slowly replace it with water that has been treated and left to warm overnight. If you try adding the water too quickly you'll end up with cold spots that could cause the fish to go into shock. I find I don't need to do anything else to keep the clean, due to the fact that I have the loaches and catfish.

                              ---Fish Health---

                              As with all organisms, fish can catch various nasty diseases, including white spot (mine caught this) and for this reason it's a good idea to actually buy a book on the subject so that you know what to look for. Although you can buy some remedies that you add to the water, it's advisable to remove any fish that look diseased as soon as you notice them. You'll need a small separate tank for this I'm afraid, but unless you want to loose your whole colony then it's a must. Any dead fish should also be removed from the tank as soon as possible and examined for signs of disease, a yucky job I know, but it has to be done.

                              I thought I'd add this to the health part, it's very easy to stress fish, they really don't like vibrations through the water. So it's not a good idea to place the tank near to your stereo speakers, or allow people to tap on the glass.


                              I thought I'd a little word here about how much it cost to set up my aquarium, and it wasn't cheap (although there are probably cheaper alternatives).

                              The two foot tank on a stand, with heater, filter and light included cost a tad under £150. There are other models that go up to a size of six foot and cost over £1000, so how much you spend really does depend on how big you want your tank. Gravel, plastic plants and ornaments added another £20, and then the fish started at about £1 each up to just under £5 (depending on where you buy them). Other species of fish can cost considerably more, this is not a cheap hobby.

                              ---The benefits---

                              While you can't cuddle fish, or take them for walks they can still be rewarding pets, just in a different way. For a start they make an impressive display, and become a talking piece in any house. The amount of time people have commented on them is reward enough. And then watching the fish as they go about their daily lives is very therapeutic, it's very calming and something that's enjoyed by young and old alike. Even toddlers seem to be drawn to the tank, and it's a great way to discuss colours and sizes with them. Finally, although there is no physical contact, there is still the interaction, from the way the fish all swarm to the surface as the lid is opened and they think it's time to eat, to the way that the shoal will follow your hand as you move it backwards and forwards.

                              ---Final Words---

                              So there you have it, a beginners guide to setting up your very first tropical aquarium. I can't tell you how rewarding it is when you've sat and watched the fish for an hour and let all your troubles wash away. So if you have the money, space and inclination why not give it a try.

                              I am not an expert, and this is only based on my own experience of successfully setting up an aquarium that holds freshwater tropical fish.


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                                20.04.2002 20:09
                                Very helpful



                                A Beginners Guide to Tropical Freshwater Fish The day of Friday the 4th of May 2001, began like any other. It was warm for a Friday, but this did not arouse anyone's suspicions and an outing to the fairly local pet shop for ONE small and scaly addition to the family was announced and deemed desirable to all... We forced ourselves outdoors into the harsh sunlight and commandeered the car. We had to. It was necessary if we wished to leave the street on which we lived, but then... life is hard and there was shopping to be done. My father, the designated driver, my mother, the navigator and Murphy and I, the back seat driver's. The team was assembled and on its way. Shortly Pets at Home [http://www.petsathome.com/] came into view, my father deftly slipped into a parking space cutting off a strange man with a trolley. You've got to admire his ruthless streak! We disembarked in synchronisation and Murphy's nose led the way, there was food in that there shop. Once through the automatic doors from hell, (the power of Christ compels you - THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!), we headed straight for the fish tanks at the back of the store and that's when I saw it. A UNYK0zero complete Tropical Freshwater Aquarium Kit. Yes, there is was on the floor, in a box, on my bank statement! Faster 'n' a fast thing that is very fast or at least as fast as my dear old dad could pick it up and drag it to the counter. DISCLAIMER: The opinions on this page are in no way written in stone or necessarily reflect the opinions of the management. Thank you. Here are the specifications of my pride and joy, and remember kids, size isn't everything: Technical Characteristics UNYK0zero: 42 x 22x h33 cm or 16 9/16" x 8 5/8" x h12 1/2" Approximate Tank Capacity: 4.4 gal UK Weight When Empty: 5.5kg Insulation
                                Class: II Degree of Protection: Upper IP 20 : Lower IP 54 Pump Flow Rate 300 I/h : 66 gph UK Pump Flow: 3.8 W Heater Power: UNYKO Plus 40 W Number of Lamps: 1 x 10 W Don't ask me what it all means, just accept it as the Holy Grail of little Tropical Freshwater Fish Tanks No? Well, I like it and it fits in the only space I have available, so, so there. And I don't want to hear that yours is bigger than mine, thank you very much! Actually a bigger tank is better if you can afford it and have the room, apparently the water quality is easier to control. In retrospect, I wish I'd waited until I had room for a larger tank. I was advised to fill and run the tank for at least five days to a week before adding any fish... And so it was and so it began... I naively thought that once the tank was up and running and the water warming nicely that I could go buy a few pretty fishes and ride 'em cowboy, erm, I mean put them in the tank, but no, no, no, no, NO! In my innocence I was wrong. Don't worry, I'll get over it, said the Bishop to the... Where was I? There are preparations to be made, money to be spent and hair to be torn out, don't put that last one in your tank. Ah yes, I feel a website plug coming on... Fear not intrepid explorer for there's gold in that there Useful Links section at my website: http://www.geocities.com/lavizelle/tropicalfish4.html My starter aquarium kit came with a bag of smooth edged gravel, (essential if you want to get some catfish which are bottom dwellers so they don't get hurt), a plastic but realistic looking plant, really! The heater, filter, air pump and light already installed and a small book called: 'Your First Tropical Fish' by Dr H. R. Axelrod ISBN 185279172-1. It has some nice phot
                                ographs with information about various fish and a bibliography at the back for further reading. NB: Before you set up your tank wash everything including the gravel with plain water and check your tank for leaks. A few days later I also bought: [from Pets at Home http://www.petsathome.com/] Dry-Tab Master Test Kit by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals to test the aquarium water for Ammonia (NH3/NH4), Nitrite (NO 2), Nitrate (NO 3) and PH Later on I discovered the liquid tester kits by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, which I like better. You get a test tube and a plastic bottle of Nitrite, Ammonnia, etc... then to test you fill the test tube with water (about three quarters full), add a few drops of the liquid and wait. The instructions are easy to follow and you still get the little colour charts. Stress Zyme to remove chlorine from the water before adding it to the tank. Chlorine kills fish. Stress Coat (contains Aloe Vera supposedly to reduce the fish stress, don't know if it works) which also removes Chlorine, neutralises Chloramines and detoxifies heavy metals. Safe Guard Dechlorinator because I discovered that I would need a basic dechlorinator that wouldn't interfere with the Ammonia levels for the first water change after my fishless cycle [http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm]. I have included a section on the Fishless Cycle further down the page. Guess who won't be buying dechlorinator any time soon! SpeedRange Aquarium Thermometer, which sticks to the side of the tank, (opposite and far away from your heater), to let you know how hot or not the aquarium water is. The little Tropical fish don't like to be cold. Mini Aquarium gravel cleaner by Hagen. This helps you clean any gravel in your tank without disturbing the fish, much. Syphoning set by Algarde to do those pesky water changes, also
                                without disturbing the fish. Mine has an on/off tap and a no hands bend/hook thingy. It's a bit big for the tank, but was the smallest I could find. As it turns out, I haven't used the Syphoning set. The Mini Aquarium gravel cleaner is easier to use in my small tank. Large plastic yellow bucket, colour is optional. For the water changes Two large plastic bowls, one for washing the filter sponge and other odds and ends from the tank if necessary, (only in used aquarium water or you might kill off any beneficial bacteria you have in your tank) and the other just in case. Two live plants of uncertain origin. They may be Elodea densa, but who knows - the person at the Pets at Home certainly didn't. Ended up getting rid of the live plants, too much algae was forming. If you can't afford a bigger tank than 4/5 gallons, don't bother with live plants, plastic are easier - most of the time, but I swear mine are growing! One mini lava rock said to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your tank. Cover backdrop sheet thingy for the outside of the tank. Apparently covering the sides of your tank, (except the front of course) makes the fish feel more secure. You can get all kinds of tropical scenes that make a nice backdrop for your tank, but I prefered an almost plain blue. AmmoLock to render Ammonia harmless until it changes to NitrIte, also a dechlorinator. This was a late addition to my tank equipment and recommended by my local tropical fish store, 'Fish Alive'. Aquarium Salt almost forgot to mention this. You don't need to add much to a freshwater tank, but it can help keep your fish healthy and apparently you do need it. NB: Brightly coloured gravel looks nice, but it can distress your fish. They may try to change colour and hide if feeling insecure, but will be unable to blend in. I didn't actually know if I would
                                need all of the above, but as I was on the verge of bankruptcy anyway, why not?! What? The fish? Oh! They're a different kettle of you know what altogether! Do your research! The fishless cycle is something I read about at the Tropical Fish Centre and thought I would give it a try. I messed it up, but if you're intrested here's the link and my experience with the cycle. Other people on the message boards had used this method sucessfully, so it's up to you. Fiendish Fishless Experiments 2001 Based on the Alernative Recipe as listed at The Tropical Fish Centre. http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm I tried this to combat new tank syndrome, which just means beginners losing fish because they have added too many at once. When you add fish to a tank their waste, containing Ammonia, builds up and becomes toxic. This is why you have to do a water changes, (10 to 25% usually), and why you have to add only a few fish at a time. This helps your aquarium water adjust relatively safely. The fishless cycle is used to simulate the water changes when you add fish. Instead of risking your fish you are using Ammonia to 'cycle' your tank. Once this is completed you can add all your fish at once instead of over several weeks. Basically what I did was to add a few drops of Ammonia then test the water until it reached 5.0ppm (parts per million), which is in the 'deadly change water range' of my test kit. Then you add the same overall amount of Ammonia used to achieve the above result everyday until the Nitrite, (NitrIte not NitRate), shows up. After this half the dose. Keep this up until your Nitrite levels peak, level off and hopefully start to drop. At the end of the cycle when Ammonia and Nitrite levels are 0, do a water change, 10-15% for a small tank I think. DO NOT add your fish if there is
                                still Ammonia or Nitrite present in the aquarium water. Do another water change and test again. I messed this up something rotton, I had to wait an extra day to get my fish after I thought the tank had finished cycling and it went through the whole thing again as if new, thus the name: New Tank Syndrome. I lost 5 of the 7 fish I added to the tank and it was very upsetting. If I'd had any idea keeping freshwater tropical fish was going to be this stressful I probably wouldn't have begun! What's weird is that the Corydoras pygmaeus or the Neon Tetra actually laid some eggs during this time, so I missed out on seeing if they would hatch. It was the last thing I expected to happen, but I suppose the poor fish had no choice. I suspect it was the Corydoras, in the fish tank, with the Lava rock! Later once the NitrIte level was 0 again I added 4 Black Phantom Tetra, (Megalamphodus megalopterus) and everything was fine for a week. During which I had to treat the tank for a skin irritation, Ich I think they call it. Then I did a water change on the 24th June 2001 and got another NitrIte spike! The last of the Neon Tetra, (Paracheirodon innesi) died, but the other fish, 1 Corydoras pygmaeus and the 4 Black Phantom Tetra survived. The first indication that something was wrong was when I noticed a film on the the water, the Neon was skimming just underneath the surface almost vertically and looked as if it were feeding, but as it had never done this before I knew it was in trouble. It died a short time later. The next day NitrIte was zero again. I thought it was all over, but a week later on Saturday 30th June 2001 I made the mistake of doing another water change and the same thing happened again. No casualties this time, but the NitrIte was still high the next day. I'd heard that it was hard to keep the water safe in a small tank, but this is
                                ridiculous, not to mentions worrying. The damn tank is cycling so much I could enter it in the Tour De France! I am going to leave the water alone for a few weeks and see what happens. The reason I haven't mentioned the Ammonia level is because I bought some AmmoLock which is supposed to render the Ammonia harmless to the fish until the filtration system can deal with it. I did, leave it alone that is, and the water settled down. I haven't bought anymore fish and am seriously considering giving it up! No I didn't poision them with Ammonia, no fish were put into the tank until I was sure the water was clear. It also raised the question, is it ethical to keep tropical fish? Probably not, but I made a choice to only buy fish bred in tanks, especially after seeing a nature programme about the methods used to catch wild fish. Reefs are being destoryed as we speak to supply the market. Not much of a distinction when it comes down to it, but it's something you will have to decide for yourself. Finally, the fish. Fish, Oh Fish, Where For Art Thou Fish? Trying to decide what fish to buy proved to be difficult. You just think you've found your sole mate when another little aquatic temptress bats it's fins at you! NB: Do not overstock your tank. To roughly work out how many fish your tank can hold do this sum from The Tropical Fish Centre. LENGTH TANK x WIDTH = WATER SURFACE AREA /(divided by) 40CM. DIVIDE TOTAL BY SIZE OR AVERAGE SIZE OF FISH YOU WANT TO ADD. For Example My Tank is: 42cm length x 22cm width = 924 / 40 = 23.1 / 4.5 cm (approx length of fish) = 5.13 fish approx. The following fish were all possible choices for my tank and were investigated to this end. They are all supposed to be good community fish and ideal for beginners, most of the fish listed school, which just means they like to sw
                                im about in a group and do better if you get a few of a kind. This is not a comprehensive list and where possible links to photographs and profiles at: Another useful resource was The Tropical Fish Centre Message Board [http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.auk/Board.him] Characins tetras, small schooling fish. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/blackphantom.asp Black Phantom tetra: Megalamphodus megalopterus. 4.cam. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/emperor.asp Emperor tetra: Nematobrycon palmer. 4.cam. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/flame.asp Flame tetra: Hyphessobrycon flames. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/neon.asp Neon tetra: Paracheirodon inns. 4.cam. http://www.biotopeaquariums.co.uk/fish/characidae/tetra_blackneon.htm Black Neon tetra: Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi. cam. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/redphantom.asp Phantom tetra: Megalamphodus swages. cam. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/pristella.asp Priestly: Priestly maxillaries. 4.cam. NB: I decided against Hatchet fish as I read that they could'nt be bred in tanks successfully and had to be supplied from the wild. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/characins/hatchet.asp Marble Hatchet Fish: Carnegie striate fascinate. 3.cam. Dwarf Hatchet Fish: Carnegie Scherer. Anabantids collectively known as Labyrinth Fish. As well as gills they have a respiratory organ which allows them to breath our air to a small degree. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/labyrinth/fighter.asp Siamese Fighting Fish: Betta splendens. One male per tank or they will fight. 6cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/labyrinth/dwarf.asp Dwarf Gourami: Colisa lalia. 4cm - 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/labyrin
                                th/honey.asp Honey Gourami: Colisa sota . 4.5cm. http://www.biotopeaquariums.co.uk/fish/belontiidae/trichopsis_pumilus.htm Pygmy Gourami: Trichopsis pumilus. 4cm. Catfish the Corydoras branch of the family which are small, peaceful bottom dwellers. They make occasional runs to the surface for air and help keep your tank clean. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/jullii.asp Corydoras jullii: Often confused with Corydoras trilineatus. 4cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/metae.asp Corydoras metae: 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/panda.asp Corydoras panda: 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/similis.asp Corydoras similis: 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/pepper.asp Pepper Catfish: Corydoras paleatus. 7cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/bottomfeeders/bronze.asp Bronze Catfish: Corydoras aeneus. 7cm. http://www.planetcatfish.com/ Corydoras hastatus: No.36 in the image library under C. Size: 2.5cm. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=46083&genusname=Corydora s&speciesname=habrosus Corydoras habrosus: 2cm. http://www.planetcatfish.com/ Corydoras pygmaeus: No.60 in the image library under C. 2.5cm. Cyprinids most of these fish are egg scatters and the group includes barbs and danios, hardy fish that are usually peaceful. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/cyprinids/zebra.asp Zebra Danio: Brachydanio rerio. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/cyprinids/goldenbarb.asp Gold/Golden Barb: Barbus gelius. 4cm -4.5cm. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?genusname=Puntius&speciesna me=gelius Golden Dwarf Barb: Puntius gelius. 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/cyprinids/leopard.asp Leopard Danio: Brachydanio
                                frankei. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/cyprinids/pearl.asp Pearl Danio: Brachydanio albolineatus. 5.5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/cyprinids/harlequin.asp Harlequin: Rasbora heteromorpha. 4.5cm. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?genusname=Boraras&speciesna me=maculatus Dwarf Rasbora: Boraras maculatus. Livebearers these fish give birth to live young rather than lay eggs and the group includes platies and mollies, hardy fish that are usually peaceful. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/livebearers/gambusia.asp Mosquito fish: Gambusia affinis. 4cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/livebearers/platies.asp Platy: Xiphophorus maculatus. 5cm. http://www.fishprofiles.com/profiles/livebearers/guppies.asp Guppy: Lebistes reticulatus. Don't keep males and female together unless breeding. 6cm. NB: Fish links checked on 20th April 2002 On the The Tropical Fish Centre Message Board [http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Board.htm] a nice person nicknamed Ferret, suggested I buy a copy of the magazine Practical Fishkeeping [http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk] as it lists the specialist retailers all over the United Kingdom. I did, it's interesting, but it didn't list a retailer near enough for my liking, so I checked the phone books under F, A and even T and found a shop about 8 miles away called 'Fish Alive' at the Dragonlane Shopping Centre, Durham, which is now my local - so to speak. A few last words of advice. Never watch your fish after lights out! I have decided that this should be a hard and fast rule of fishkeeping. You really do not want to see what they get up to in the dark - trust me, you'll be so busy wondering why they've gone mad and are dashing about the tank and gazing adoringly at their reflection that you won't get any sle
                                ep yourself. Fish can drive you mad, if humans don't get at least five hours of REM sleep a night we can't function properly. It's a fiendish plot by fish kind to keep us in our place! I hope you found something useful in this article, I'm on the verge of giving up and just sitting staring at the fake hamster my brother got me for Christmas. Hey, it has batterries and a wheel to wiz round in, and I don't have to clean up after it! If after reading about my disasters you're still interested in sticking your oar into the world of freshwater tropical fish, good luck and enjoy your new tank... If you dare!


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