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Keeping my best Friends
Member Name: scuba_angel
Advantages: looks beautiful
Disadvantages: surprisingly hard work
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.
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.
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.
Summary: Keeping fish is hard work but can be very rewarding