Anecdotally, there may be as many fish tanks packed up in garages as there are setup in lounge rooms! This isn’t because they were all owned by men who think the garage is a man cave. Usually it's because people have tried their best but still found that their tank turned green or worse still, the fish died.
There is a perception that keeping fish alive is difficult, involves lots of water testing and high tech filtration, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are just three simple steps that every fish keeper should do that will give them the best chance of being successful.
Step One Understand the limitations of your tank
When people start out they usually purchase a small aquarium with the view that if they are successful in keeping the fish alive, they will spend the money on a larger aquarium. Small bodies of water (under 10 ltrs) can be very difficult to maintain so aim for an aquarium that is at least 20 ltrs in capacity and make sure it has a filter. As a general rule allow about 1 fish for every 5 ltrs of aquarium water so a 20 litre tank can hold 4 fish of about 5cm each. Higher stocking densities than this can make it hard to maintain the water quality and make it more likely that fish will become stressed, often leading to diseases and death.
Step Two Change the water regularly
The best thing that you can do for your fish is to change the water regularly whether you have filter on your aquarium or not. A big mistake that new fish keepers make is to change all of the water in the aquarium. Not only is this very stressful for the fish themselves, but it up sets the biological balance of the aquarium. There are beneficial bacteria that live in the aquatic environment and these break down the waste of the fish. These bacteria are reduced when all of the water is changed and essentially the fish can die from swimming around in their own waste! When siphoning the water out of the aquarium, use a gravel cleaner. This will not only remove the water from the tank, but it also removes the sludge and waste from the gravel bed without the need to empty the whole aquarium.
Step Three Be patient
There are many products that you can purchase to that make modern fish keeping easier. However, the one thing that hasn’t change in all the centuries of keeping fish is the importance of being patient. The beneficial bacteria that colonise across every surface of the aquarium are the basis of any healthy successful tank. These bacteria take about 6-8 weeks to grow and during this time it is important to add your fish very slowly only a few at a time with about a 10 day gap between each group of new fish. Products such as ‘Quick Start’ can speed this process up a little, but in the end there is no substitute for patience.
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