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Lets Go Fishing
Member Name: bettyboopy
Date: 08/06/07, updated on 09/06/07 (2583 review reads)
Advantages: Peaceful and relaxing hobby, looks great, everyone can get involved
Disadvantages: Can be costly and lots of hard-work
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.
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
Gravel or other suitable substrate
Plants (ideally live, just as cheap)
Filter and Air Pump
Rocks, tank ornaments
Light and light power pack.
Bacterial water treatment
White Spot treatment
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".
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.
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.
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.
Summary: Hard work pays off