TOP 5 TIPS FOR BUYING AQUARIUM FISH

by Tom Sarac and J.F. Pujolle

 
Don’t be one of those people that walk into your local fish store confident you’re ready to buy fish while your new aquarium kit is sitting unboxed on your living room floor. Guess what? You’re not ready to buy fish. Read these 5 basic but important tips to understand what tasks you need to complete BEFORE you can fully enjoy your aquarium... and your new fish.

TIP #1
BASIC PREPARATION

Location is key. When thinking about where to place your aquarium, try not to pick an area that is exposed to direct outside light, or you may find yourself cleaning algae on a regular basis. Also, proximity to windows or heating outlets can affect water temperature. Is it visible from a location you like to relax in? Is it going in a high traffic area? This can be stressful to shy species of fish. Ask yourself these questions and avoid these situations. This is your first consideration.

Ensure all hardware is functioning the way it should. Lighting, heating and filtration should all be working properly for at least a couple of days, and to ensure oxygenation, check that the filter output is visibly moving the water’s surface.

Just because you dialed in a temperature on your heater does not ensure that is what the actual water temperature will be. A thermometer is absolutely necessary and should be checked daily. You may have to make slight adjustments on your heater setting based on your thermometer reading, this is normal. Just check the water temperature daily.

Water chemistry is next. Be aware of your aquarium’s pH and make small adjustments until you reach the right range. No need to be too exact here as fish adapt to slight variations in pH. Staying in range is the important thing. Different species of fish prefer different pH ranges, so it's very important to keep this in mind when choosing fish for the aquarium.

TIP #2
STOCK YOUR AQUARIUM WISELY

Subscribe to the adage that less is definitely more, so plan on being conservative with your fish purchases and under-stock rather than overstock. Remember that most fish are sold in their juvenile state and will grow considerably. Think about how big your fish will become when calculating the number of inches of fish per gallon. The idea is approximately one inch of adult fish size per gallon.

When keeping small, gentle, schooling species like the smaller rasboras and tetras, you could surpass the stocking ratio by 20-25% without issue. Length is not the only factor to consider when selecting fish. Think about territoriality, aggressiveness and actual girth and the type of fish it is. Whether it is a herbivore, omnivore or carnivore also factors in here. Your local well-informed fish store is going to give you a hand when choosing your fish, so listen to their advice and refer back to the aquarium guide to double check the key points for stocking.

TIP #3
NEW AQUARIUM CYCLING

The nitrogen cycle will take place in your aquarium as you start to populate it with fish. Fish emit waste through their gills and defecate and urine into the very habitat they live in. Using a biological enhancer will ensure you are regularly seeding the aquarium with friendly bacteria and creating a biologically-clean and safe aquarium for fish.

The cycling period lasts from 2-4 weeks. Low stocking levels of hardy fish, regular follow-up dosing with bio enhancer and careful feeding will result in a stress-free, breaking-in period for your new aquarium.

TIP #4
CHOOSING COMPATIBLE FISH SPECIES

The most obvious factor in compatibility is size. If you combine large fish with very small fish, you will most certainly end up with very few or no small fish remaining in your aquarium. The general rule is if a fish is small enough to fit into the mouth of another, larger fish, you are risking predation, so best to avoid this.

Consider the behavior of fish. Peaceful, non-territorial schooling fish should be kept with other peaceful fish. So, fast swimmers that are very competitive feeders are usually not a good mix here.

We’ve reference the importance of water chemistry in Tip 1, but it merits repeating here. Mixing species of fish that like very different pH values is never a good idea and really does not make sense. Know which basic water chemistry the fish you like prefer. For example, mingle any acidic-loving species with others that like the same pH range, and alkaline-preferring groups with others that like a higher pH and generally harder water.

If you are going to keep live plants, which are always a good thing, choose plant-friendly species of fish but don’t forget you’ll need to provide adequate lighting for plant growth and health.

TIP #5
ACCLIMATE YOUR FISH

Rushing home to the thrill of seeing your fish swimming in your aquarium is a normal feeling, but like with most good things in life, patience is usually best. Before you drop them in the water, you’ll need to do a few things first:

1-  Turn off the aquarium lighting as this will reduce stress for the newcomers.

2-  Float the bag for 20-30 minutes. Every 5-10 minutes, add water from the aquarium to the bag. Doing this will help your fish adjust to any differences in water chemistry (there’s that phrase again). Your pet retailer should disclose the pH of the fish. If he doesn’t, make a note to ask!  Knowing this ahead of time will allow you the time to adjust the level to be within range before bringing your new fish home.

3-  When you’re ready to introduce the fish into the aquarium, carefully release the bag of water and fish into a small bucket, and gently net the fish out of the bucket and place them in the tank. By doing this, you avoid transferring store water into your aquarium and reduce the chance of introducing disease.

4-  You may have to shift and change the positioning of the decor and perhaps even perform a good water change and thorough gravel washing beforehand depending on the species. For example, if you have an African cichlid tank containing a variety of Mbunas, you will have dominant males competing for and dominating territory. Rearranging the decor removes any familiarity, effectively disorienting the dominant fish temporarily to allow the new specimens a chance to mix in.


So, there you have it. Follow these 5 basic tips and you’ll be well on your way to a successful and rewarding hobby in aquarium-keeping.


Fluval TV
Top 5 Tips for Buying Aquarium Fish

Tom Sarac from Fluval meets up with J.F. Pujolle at Nature Pet Centre in Lasalle, Quebec to uncover the Top 5 tips for buying fish, including selecting the right species, proper aquarium set-up, understocking versus overstocking, and more.

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