Sources and tips for beginning and maintaining your tropical fish and aquariums

You've admired your friend's aquarium and tropical fish long enough! Now you have decided to start your own aquarium. Where do you begin? As with keeping any pet, the first thing you should do is learn about your new interest before actually bringing home the aquarium, equipment, and fish. The more you learn before you start, the more successful you'll be, and the fewer casualties you'll encounter. There are plenty of books written about aquarium keeping, the extra equipment and supplies you'll need to maintain a good environment for your fish, as well as selecting and raising tropical fish. Visit the library, a bookstore, the pet store, and online for sources and information on one of the most fascinating and popular hobbies in the world. We'll give you just a few of the good sources we've found for aquarium and fish keeping.

Before You Buy Your Tropical Fish

As mentioned before, get and read some books or information from online sources before you go out and buy your aquarium and fish. You cannot buy the aquarium and immediately put your fish in it. Your aquarium must be set up and running for 72-96 hours before adding fish. Purchasing your fish will be the last thing that you do. Adding fish too soon, before your tank has become settled, is sure to result in casualties. Once you have read up on your new hobby, you are ready to purchase your aquarium and other equipment. Decide on the size of the aquarium first, as other items such as filters, gravel, air pumps, and water heaters are dependent on the size of your aquarium. If this is a new hobby, we suggest starting small. If you enjoy it and are successful at keeping your tropical fish alive, you can always move up to bigger and more exotic aquariums, and more fish, later on.

Sources for your aquarium and fish

  • We checked PetSmart's site first, as they are nationwide and more than likely you will have one close to you. Just about everything you need for your new hobby can be found here. For example, PetSmart sells a 3 gallon aquarium called the Eclipse System 3, which is great as a starter aquarium. It's small enough to sit on a counter or desktop, and shows a price of $36.99 on PetSmart's web site. It includes a filtration system so you won't need to buy an air filter. If you want to start smaller (and for less money), for $9.99-$19.99 you can pick up a 1 or 2 gallon model called TopFin Aqua Scene. This one comes with hood light, filter, and air pump. If you want to move up to a bigger size, and price, they also carry sizes on up to 50 gallons.
  • ThatFishPlace was our next stop. A division of ThatPetPlace, you can find all kinds of aquariums and supplies here. When we checked, a 12 gallon aquarium with many of the additonal items necessary to run your aquarium, was selling for $89.99, plus shipping.
  • is a good informational site, and will answer your questions about fish keeping and aquariums.

You Have Your Aquarium and Supplies, Now What?

You've come home from the pet store with your new aquarium and all the recommended equipment that goes with it: air filter, air pump, heater, gravel, and so forth. Now what do you do? First, we want to remind you that now is not the time to add fish to your aquarium. To be on the safe side, wait at least 96 hours before introducing fish to their new home. The first thing you'll do is rinse the inside of your aquarium with clear water. You should also rinse the gravel you'll be using as well as the plants.

Never use any soap on the inside of the aquarium. Then you are ready to begin setting it up. The location you've chosen should be away from windows and not in a high traffic area. It should be near an electrical outlet, since there'll be filters and what-not to plug in. Don't add water until your gravel and any plants and decorative items are in. It's much easier to move these things around when there's no water in the tank. When you're satisfied that everything decorative is where you want it to be, and you have your filters, air pumps and heater in place, you can add your water. Among your purchases should have been additives to remove chlorine from the water, testing kits for the nitrites, ph levels and ammonia in the water, and additives to correct high or low levels. You'll want to test the water, then add the proper chemicals as recommended in by the books you've read and on the advice of the people at the pet store. Test your water daily to be sure these readings are adjusting properly, and add the proper chemicals accordingly. When they are at the proper levels, and if it's been at least 96 hours since you initially set the aquarium up, you are ready to add your fish.

Adding Your Fish: Now the Real Fun Begins

We trust that while you were waiting for your aquarium to settle in, you were researching what kinds of fish you'd like to add. The number of fish you have will depend on the size of the aquarium. If you've started with that 3 gallon size, you're only going to want a few fish. If you have a 10 or 20 gallon size aquarium, you can add more. We recommend that you don't add all of your fish at once, especially if they are of different species. Of course you have researched and know which ones will get along in the same tank. Begin adding one species at a time, waiting a week to be sure all is well before adding the next fish. It's much less devastating to lose a few fish rather than a whole tankful.

Once you've added your fish, follow the recommendations in your books or from your fish dealer for feeding and other maintenance. You'll need to continue keeping an eye on the ammonia, nitrite and ph levels and correct those if needed. There'll be some partial water changes that will need to be done periodically, and perhaps a bit of cleaning of algae that has formed on your tank. Tank maintenance shouldn't take too much of your time, and you should have many hours of pleasure watching your new family members.

See our companion article about selecting fish for your aquarium.

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