Aquarium Fish

Beginner to Fish Keeping - Part 4: Grand Finale

Online Aquarium Fish Magazine | Beginner to Fish Keeping - Part 4: Grand Finale

Caring for Your Fish

Once your tank has been set up and your fish have been introduced to it, your fish will require care. Many people think of taking care of fish as dropping a few flakes in every day and then forgetting about them. This is not the case at all. Fish require about as much care as a cat does.


When feeding your fish, it's very important to avoid overfeeding them. Overfeeding has two negative impacts. First, it causes the fish to grow fat. As with any other animal, this is unhealthy and will shorten your fish's life span. Second, excess food sinks to the bottom of the tank and adds to the aquarium's waste. The best way to feed your fish is to provide one piece of food for each fish twice a day. As long as each of the fish gets a piece most of the time, they will be fine. In fact, it's beneficial for fish to fast for a day or two periodically.

As said above, there is a wide variety of foods available to fish. It's a good idea to vary their diet to provide a wide variety of nutrients.

Water Changes

Aside from feeding, this is probably the single most important thing you can provide for your fish. Changing the water removes nitrates from the tank, allows you to vacuum the gravel in the tank, which removes excess waste from the tank, and prevents the buildup of minerals in the water. When water evaporates, all of the minerals that are in your tap water remain in the tank. When you replace the evaporated water, you add more minerals. Eventually, the water will become hard enough to start harming your fish.

To perform a water change, turn off anything that will be left above the water line as you remove water. Truthfully, the best thing to do is unplug everything from the outlet. In this way, there is no chance of water getting to the socket and either running into the tank or grounding out in you. If your aquarium has an air pump, verify that the water doesn't flow back into the line when you cut the power. With a backflow device, this shouldn't happen, but it still can.

Then use a siphon to draw out some of the water. There are several ways to start the siphon. One can simply submerge the hose in the water, cover the non-vacuum end with one's thumb, pull that end of the hose out, and uncover the end over a bucket. There are also squeeze bulbs that can be used to start a siphon. One thing that this author would not suggest is to follow the instructions that come on most gravel vacuums. They say that you can "vigorously shake the vacuum in the water" to start a siphon. This is traumatic for the fish, and potentially harmful if they get struck by the vacuum. Various aquarists suggest anywhere between 10% and 50% (or more) of the water be changed every week. 20% is a good number, 50% would be better. The more you change out on a regular basis, the better it is for your fish.

One caveat to this is that you should never change out all of the water at any one time. Too much of a water change will be a shock to the system as the fish go from heavily polluted water to clean water. That's right, overly clean water can be harmful to fish, if their bodies have become accustomed to the pollution. If it's been a while since the last water change, several smaller water changes over a few days is a good way to acclimate your fish to a healthier water quality.

Observing Your Fish

Of course, the whole point of having an aquarium is to watch your fish, but this means more than that. You should check on each of your fish every day. Look for odd behavior such as gasping at the top of the tank, laying at the bottom of the tank, or swimming off-kilter. Also look for damaged fins, sores, fuzzy patches, or any other difference in appearance. Some fish, such as bettas, are capable of rapidly changing color, and usually are stressed when they do so. This change of color often shocks aquarists the first time they see it, and though it isn't always an immediate danger, it may indicate an issue that needs to be dealt with soon.

The first thing you should do any time you see an odd behavior is test all of your water parameters. It is often the case that a change in water quality will stress a fish, opening the way for an illness.

The range of fish illnesses is too broad for this article, so this author will leave the extended topic for another article in this magazine.

This is the end of the basics of the aquarist's hobby. Learning all of this stuff is kind of like getting a black belt in karate. Now you are ready to begin learning about keeping fish. Everything up until this point can be considered "learning how to learn." So take good care of your fish, pay attention to them, and you will begin truly learning about keeping fish.

About the Author

Sam started keeping fish when I inherited a tank from a friend's girlfriend. Have since purchased three other tanks, each with an entirely different setup and type of fish.

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