Aquarium and Tropical Fish Tips
Updated August 12, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
We've tried to come up with a list of general tropical fish tips and hints for beginners to the fish keeping hobby. Below you will find our compiled list of the items we thought would especially help a newbie. If you have a good aquarium or tropical fish tip that you would like to share, just complete the form at the bottom of the page and we'll post it.
New Fish Tank Tips
- Realize that if you do things correctly, this can be a long-term commitment. Some fish species can live for a very long time if cared for properly.
- Research, research and research some more. It's a really good idea to get as much information as possible on a fish before buying it. Try to find out things such as:
- How big it will eventually get and whether you have a large enough aquarium
- What are the aquarium water parameters it requires? Find out things such as temperature, pH ranges, etc.
- What types of fish foods will it eat? Will it take flake foods?
- The general temperament of the fish species. Will it get along with the fish you already have or plan to get? This is an often overlooked area that needs more attention from hobbyists.
- Is the species known as a prolific breeder? If so, do you have the equipment needed to keep them or do you have a plan for what happens when your fish has babies? Find out if your local fish store will take the young fish. If you don't have a means of placing them then you should stick with those fish that don't breed as easily in captivity.
- Is the fish easily susceptible to certain fish diseases?
- How big it will eventually get and whether you have a large enough aquarium
- Get the biggest tank you can afford. A larger aquarium generally means that your aquarium water parameters will be more stable. A bigger tank gives you some room for error, like when a fish dies and you don't notice it right away. Or, for instance, when your heater breaks and the stores are closed. The water temperature should be more stable in a bigger tank.
- Learn about the fish tank nitrogen cycle. This is a crucial process that you must understand if you want to have long term success with tropical fish.
- Research aquarium equipment before you buy it. Use google (top right of this page) or any search engine, and type in the particular model you are interested in and read what others have to say about it.
- If you enjoy reading, go to the library or buy tropical fish books. Get a couple of books on aquarium information or the species you are interested in getting. Reading a book is probably the fastest way to get up to speed and it provides a great reference for the future. On this site you can find some of the fish books we've reviewed.
Subscribe to a fish and aquarium magazine. Getting a subscription to a hobby magazine is an easy way to pick up some good tips and it also allows you to stay up to date on anything new in the hobby.
- Give your fish plenty of places to hide. Ironically, it seems the more places they have to hide the less they do hide. Hiding places can be a place of refuge for your fish and it should lower stress levels for them.
- Research the fish you would like to keep and then aquascape your tank for the fish that will be living in it. You want to be able to meet the requirements of the fish you are keeping and modifying the aquascape afterwards is sometimes not an option.
- Get and use an aquarium water test kit to monitor the aquarium nitrogen cycle. The best way to monitor this cycle is to purchase a freshwater or saltwater test kit that will test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and ph. Test the water coming out of your tap as well. This will arm you with more information when it comes time for those water changes.
- Don't place your tank next to a window. Sunlight entering your aquarium will cause major headaches in the form of green algae. Direct sunlight will also cause your tank water temperature to increase.
- Don't follow the 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water rule. A better guide would probably be 1 inch of fish per 2 or 3 gallons of water. Use the future adult size of your fish when computing how many fish you can keep. Resist the temptation to overcrowd your tank. The more tropical fish you have the more often you will have to perform fish tank maintenance.
- De-chlorinate your tap water before putting it in your tank. There are many de-chlorinators on the market.
- Get an aquarium filter that has multiple (2) media cartridges. This will allow you to change out one at a time. If you swap out all of the filter media with new media you run the risk of having to go through a mini aquarium cycle. Good power filters that hang on the back of the tank usually come with a separate floss system that you never have to change.
- Never rinse out your filter media with straight tap water. Use some of the tank water that you've just siphoned out while doing a water change. The chlorine and chloramine in the tap water will kill the nitrifying bacteria in the filter.
Stocking Fish Tips
- Slowly add fish to your tank. Never go out and buy a bunch of tropical fish because your tank's bio-load won't be able to handle it. Slowly adding fish gives your tanks biological filtration a chance to catch up.
- Slowly acclimate fish to your current setup or preferably a quarantine tank. When bringing home new fish, dump the bag contents (fish and water) into a clean (used only for fish) 5-gallon bucket and then add about 1 cup of aquarium water to the 5 gallon bucket every 10 minutes. Continue to add 1 cup of aquarium water to the 5-gallon bucket every 10 minutes. After an hour or so your fish should be ready to add to the aquarium.
- Make sure that any new fish you are planning to add to your tank will be compatible with the current inhabitants. You need to look at temperament, water parameters and tank size requirements. For instance, please don't put a common pleco in anything under 55 gallons.
- For new tanks, be sure the fish that you add to your tank are hardy. After the tank has aged for a few months, less hardy fish can be added. A tank needs to "mature" (complete the aquarium nitrogen cycle) before it can accommodate certain species of fish. Submitted by: Dahly
Feeding Your Fish Tips
- Give your fish a variety of tropical fish food and not just flakes. Read the nutritional information on the canister of food to see what vitamins and minerals your fish is getting. Flakes can be the primary diet for many fish because they are packed with the vitamins and minerals your fish needs. However, try to supplement their diet with other types of food every once in a while. You should see better colors and increased vitality by varying their diet.
- Do not overfeed your fish. Try for two small feedings per day instead of one large feeding. Give your fish a small pinch of food and see if they eat it all within a minute or two. If you see flakes floating to the bottom of the tank, then you put in too much food. That is, unless you have bottom feeders. Overfeeding will lead to poor aquarium water quality and will increase the stress levels in your fish.
Fish Tank Maintenance Tips
- Always turn off the electricity before working in or around your tank. Use a powerstrip connected to a gfci outlet and all you have to do to turn off the electricity is flip a switch. Also, use drip loops on all of the cords or hang the power strip on the wall, thereby causing the cords to loop before reaching the plug in. Read the aquarium electrical safety article.
- Try to change some of the water in the tank on a regular basis. Small frequent (weekly or every two weeks) water changes are better than infrequent large water changes. Small water changes will cause less stress and shouldn't interfere with the biological cycle in the tank. If you have a larger tank, get a Python Aquarium Vacuum. These vacuums make doing water changes a breeze. Gravel vac only half of the tank with each water change. Switch sides on the next water change.
- Avoid wide fluctuations in your water parameters such as temperature and pH. Try to refill your aquarium with water that is as close to the current tank water as possible.
Fish Disease Tips
- Set up and use a quarantine tank. This is a small inconvenience that can really save your butt.
- Only medicate your main tank as a last resort. Use the quarantine tank setup for medicating sick fish and for monitoring new arrivals.
- Figure out what caused the fish disease or problem in the first place. Has your tank completed the aquarium nitrogen cycle? Did you quarantine the new fish? Have you been keeping up on those water changes? What are the readings on your aquarium test kits?
- Try to accurately diagnose the disease before using medication.
- Remove any carbon in your fish tank filters before using medications because the carbon will remove medication that you add to your water.
- Turn off the protein skimmer in saltwater fish tanks while medicating because it can skim off certain medicines.
Aquarium Lighting Tips
- Don't leave the fish tank lights on all of the time. Try for a 8 to 12 hour period of time for lighting. Most want to have the lights on while they are home. You can get the 8 to 12 hours needed by using a timer. For instance, set it to make the lights come on at 10am and off at 10pm. This will let you view your tank when you get home from work.
- If you are wanting to keep aquarium plants, be sure to research their light requirements first. Determine if you can meet those requirements with your existing lights or if you need more wattage, which might require a different and usually more expensive aquarium hood.
Breeding Fish Tips
- Make sure that you have the necessary equipment before you start breeding fish. If you don't have the space to keep the fry and don't have anyone you can give them to, please don't keep males and females in the same tank. This is especially applicable to those keeping livebearer fish like Mollies, Platies, the Guppy and the Swordtail.
- When breeding tropical freshwater fish, always make note of temperature, ph, water quality, food intake and unusual behavior. That way you can breed fish again easily by recreating these conditons or by observing unusual behavior between pairs. You set yourself up for the possibilities of new arrivals.
Submitted By: Eric
- Get a book on breeding - Breeding Freshwater Fish or Breeder's Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes
Aquarium Fish Tips and Comments
Related Aquarium Articles!
Learn how to setup a freshwater aquarium, from start to finish.
Contrary to what you may have heard, setting up and running a saltwater aquarium is not difficult. Read this to find out how easy it really is to have a saltwater tank.
If you want to set up the ultimate aquarium, try your hand at setting up a reef tank!