The Everything Guide to Fishkeeping
This is a general meta node guide to fishkeeping. There seems to be a lot
of work that needs to be done so if you get the time please add some nodes to
the links I have included here.
Please let me know if you have made or added a node, or if I have missed a
node so that I can integrate it into this metanode.
This is all off the top of my head so if you see some problem let me know
You first need an aquarium or a pond. I am going to focus on the aquarium
side of things. Aquarium sizes are usually measured in feet or inches.
This seems to be regardless of where you live. Often beginners start off with
small tanks and work their way up. To some people's thinking this is a bit backwards
because a smaller tank ( say 2 feet long or less) often require dedication to
a regular maintenance routine. This makes sense when considering that a lower
volume of water can easily get put out of whack even by small build up of fish
wastes or by changes in outside temperature. People probably start small due
to the lower investment involved and because of concern that a bigger tank means
more problems. I have to say though that you get better value for money at reasonable
tank sizes and you also get less problems relative to a smaller tank. So what
do I think is a decent size? I would start at a 3 to 4 foot tank. This gives
you enough size to eventually have a nicely stocked tank as well as the room
to make some small mistakes as a beginner. It will also give you room to try
out things as you get more confident and want to specialise on maybe one particular
type of fish.
The selection of a tank should be made mainly on functional criteria. A tank
must be well proportioned in order to have a decent surface area to allow gas
exchange to occur. This means that a tank should be not too deep and not too
narrow. A tank that is too deep will also be hard to light and the bottom of
the tank will be under lit resulting in poor plant growth. So when you do look
at buying a tank think about how you are going to be able to create a healthy
tank environment and I would recommend avoiding "ornamental" tanks.
You will also need a good location for your tank in your home. A tank with
all the equipment hooked up needs a few power points. You will probably need
to get some power boards and some timers so that lights can automagically
switch on and off. If you want to get tricky and you have two banks of lights
you can switch the banks on in a staggered fashion so your fish don't get too
Do not position your tank in direct lighting! It might be tempting to think
that you can use the sun to light your tank but this can pose a number of problems.
In particular small tanks exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods can
turn into fish stewers as the water temperature rises. You also have less control
over your tanks lighting making it difficult to get good plant growth.
In order to create a long term home for your fish you need to make sure you
cover a number of bases. I have categorized a number of important areas below.
Importantly, you need to understand the aquarium environment which
includes the establishment of the nitrogen cycle so that your fish can survive.
Good fishkeepers also have regular maintenance routines that include changing
the aquarium water, checking the water chemistry (pH, Water Hardness, Salinity,
Nitrates Levels, Nitrites Levels, Ammonia Levels, CO2 Levels, Water Temperature), cleaning filters, cleaning gravel, and observing
fish health and behaviour. Some aquarists add supplements to their aquarium
water to get it just right or to remedy conditions. This can include adding
buffers, acids, bases, black water extract, drugs, chlorine neutralizer
and whole host of other items. A newly established tank also needs to be cycled
in order to start the nitrogen cycle going. This can take a few days. A common
problem with new tanks and over keen aquarists is the introduction of fish before
the tank has cycled properly. As the new fish excrete waste ammonia spikes which
can be deadly for fish.
What you do in keeping your fish will depend on whether you have a freshwater
aquarium or saltwater aquarium.
A range of filtering options are available to the fish keeper. What you need depends on a number of factors including:
- Size of your aquarium/pond
- Design of your aquarium/pond
- Stocking Density or Fish Load
- Type of fish -although all fish should have the best environment possible
regardless of type.
- The fishkeeper's skill - I include under this category the commitment of
the fishkeeper to a maintenance routine
- the amount of money you have
Filters can be broken into two broad categories - External
- Power filter
- Power head - also used outside the tank in a trickle filter setup
- Sponge filter - refers more to the filter media than the powering mechanism
- Undergravel filter
- Canister filter
- Trickle filter or Wet-Dry filter
- Protein Skimmer - can include an ozone pump
Filters often try to do two things. Filter out debris (floaty bits) in the
tank and set up some sort of biological filtration. It's very important to
have that nitrogen cycle working for you 24/7. Filters are sometimes used
in combination with one filter removing debris and the other principally involved
with biological filtration. The keen enthusiast who has multiple tanks with
one mega filter or who is worried about diseases might want to use a UV steriliser
as part of the filter device in order to kill germs/bacteria in the water.
The type of filter media used usually depends on the type of filtration
that is being used. Quite often a couple of different types of filtration
and therefore a number of different filter media are used. Please look under
the filter media node:
- Activated carbon
- Ammonia chips
- Filter floss
The aquarium requirements for lightning are much underrated especially when
you want to keep plants or live rocks. People generally feel that your bog
standard household flourescent tube will do the trick. In most cases it won't
and you'll end up with a slimey mess of unwanted algae and unhappy fish. If
you intend to setup a marine or saltwater aquarium (and in particular you want
a living reef) you'll be looking at some pretty serious lighting requirements.
(note: more to be added soon)
Some people can't do with out various ornaments in their tank that are powered
by some aeration device. While most tanks don't need extra water circulation
beyond that provided by most filtration systems, various air pumps can provide
decorative touches or power small filters. A nice touch is a curtain of air
bubbles that can not only look nice but also get water moving in those dead
spots in a tank (especially large ones) Air pumps that run off a battery can
sometimes be vital to the survival of your fish when you are suddenly without
a power supply. In these cases biologically "live" samples from your
filters can be added to air pump powered filters.
A number of different air pump designs are available. I'll be adding them here
Heating and Cooling
Aquariums are usually heated through a propose built water proof heating coil
that you can get at your local fish store. These are long glass tubes with a
heating coil wrapped around a ceramic core. They also have a thermostat
so you can set your temperature. It is always a good idea to not trust what the
gauge on the heater tells you the thermostat is set to, so also have a thermometer
for you tank so that you can check that the temperature is correct. The heaters
come in varying wattages and, yes you guessed it, usually it is more watts for
bigger tanks. A good quality heater will last for the life your tank and provide
a constant temperature in your tank. Fish are sensitive to even small fluctuations
When deciding which fish you want to buy often the last place you want to enquire is the local fish shop. I've often found their advice to not only be plain wrong but also bordering on deceptive. I'm no expert but they have even named fish incorrectly (e.g. Bruce). This is particularly true when you are looking for a specific algae eater for your tank and end up with a psycho-fish of death that doesn't eat any algae and is single-mindedly intent on killing off all the other tank inhabitants.I recommend looking at resources online that are published by other hobbyists or chatting to other people about their personal experiences. There is nothing worse than having fish in the wrong water conditions or having a bad mix of fish. Do some research before you venture out.
I've seen some sites that even review local fish shops on a range of criteria. If you are lucky enough there might be a review on your local fish shop.
Please note freshwater fish can vary substantially in their requirements.
- Angel fish
- Archer fish
- Sucker fish
I don't know a lot about marine(saltwater) fishes.
- Blue Tang
- Coral fish
- Dither fish
- Target fish
- Yellow Tang
Plants and Live Rock
When you buy plants you might be attracted to plants that aren't true aquatics. Plants, such as spaths are often sold by fish shops but they aren't true aquatic plants, meaning that they look pretty for a few weeks and will barely survive as time goes on. Spathiphyllum should have their roots submerged and leaves out of water.Don't expect the plant to thrive in a fully submerged state.
Make sure you read the plant FAQ at thekrib (http://faq.thekrib.com/plant-list.html). I've reproduced the blacklisted plant list here so you don't get stung for cash when buying plants. The scientific names are included in the FAQ.
- umbrella pine
- ground pines/club mosses
- aluminum plant
- green hedge
- underwater palm
- spider plant
- Chinese evergreen
- arrowhead -- either Syngonium (the houseplant) or a species of Sagittaria that doesn't do well submerged.
- pongol sword
- sandriana, green dragon plant -- tall corn-like stalk, dark green sword-like leaves with white edges.
- mondo grass, fountain plant -- Grassy, leaves in one plane.
- Japanese rush -- looks like mondo.
- Brazil sword, Borneo swords
- scarlet hygro/dragon flame/alligator weed
Here is a list of plants options:
- Amazon sword
- Java Moss
- Live rock
<to be completed>
The following is a list of good references
- Dr Axelrod's mini-atlas of freshwater aquarium fishes