10 most common mistakes beginner fish keepers

Typical overcrowded and incompatible fish tank

10 most common mistakes beginner fish keepers make and how to avoid them

Typical overcrowded and incompatible fish tank
Typical overcrowded and incompatible fish tank

New aquarium hobbyists are generally an excitable bunch—they are quick to purchase all the tools necessary and eager to begin their first foray into the colorful and rewarding world of fish keeping. That excitement, however, can lead to some important oversights when it comes to maintaining a successful tank. If you are new to the aquarium hobby and would like to ensure success, make sure you avoid these common pitfalls:

Number one: lack of patience

In order to ensure the success of your aquarium, you must be able to provide your fish with a stable environment that is carefully and patiently attended to. The desire to get everything done right now and enjoy a colorful display of fish may be overwhelming, but if you do not take the time to address the water conditions of your tank first, you run the risk of killing fish.

Examples of impatient behavior that threatens fish include placing fish into your tank before it is cycled, placing multiple fish in your tank on the same day, and overfeeding. It is important that each of these steps is taken carefully and with respect towards appropriate timing.

Make sure you treat tap water to remove chlorine or allow a bucket of tap water to rest for 36 hours before adding to the aquarium.
When adding new fish they should ideally be quarantined first and when putting a fish into an aquarium put the bag into the aquarium first for 15 minutes before emptying the fish into the aquarium.

Don’t overfeed your fish. Any uneaten food should be removed within five minutes. Use a siphon to hover out uneaten food. The amount of food a fish can eat is minute. Most beginners overestimate what their fish can eat.

Don’t feed just for entertainment, to get the fish to actively swim for food is not a good idea.

Don’t buy sick or unhealthy fish. Keep your money in your pocket and find a shop where they sell healthy fish.

Wait until your fish tank is ready before buying fish.

Number two: not understanding the nitrogen cycle

All about cycling here

Make sure you have a good filter. The more powerful, the better. Not buying a filter is the surest way to fish death.

This mistake links heavily with mistake number one, since an unsuccessful tank cycling is often the result of impatience. Getting bacteria in your tank to reliably convert toxic ammonia into nitrite and nitrate is of critical importance to the health of your fish, and it takes time. If you rush this important step, your fish will have a very hard time surviving.

Thankfully, there are numerous guides on this website and others dedicated to helping newcomers understand the nitrogen cycle. By following those guidelines to the letter and giving your tank time to become the ideal environment in which the necessary bacteria can grow on your filter medium, you will ensure that your first fish thrive.

Buy a filter with a lot of surface area such as a sponge and make sure it is well powered. The bigger the aquarium the more powerful a filter you need. The filter is not there to just filter ‘bits’ out of the water but more importantly it is there to allow bacteria to break down fish waste into harmless substances.

Do not clean everything in the tank. You will remove the healthy bacteria. Washing the gravel is a big no-no. But you should hover the gravel to remove any debris or fish waste.

Do not wash the filter’s sponge in tap water as you will kill the healthy bacteria.

Also do not use soap or detergents or any other chemicals to clean the aquarium or any equipment. Most are poisonous to fish.

Number three: buying a small tank

Often, newcomers to the aquarium hobby will look at large tanks and think they require expert-level care due to their size when in fact, the opposite is true. Large tanks offer a far more forgiving environment for your fish when it comes to water quality—one of the most challenging areas for newcomers.

If you choose a small tank, you run the risk of upsetting the balance of water acidity, hardness, or ammonia levels very easily. In a large tank, even significant mistakes can be remedied with relative simplicity, owing to the greater volume of water present. You are much less likely to accidentally kill your fish in a large tank, so it is worth it to invest in the biggest one you can afford!

Goldfish bowl – this is a big no-no.

Number four: overstocking your tank

If you succeed in properly cycling your tank and setting up the right conditions for your fish to thrive in, you still run the risk of overstocking your tank with fish. Experienced aquarists can run highly populated tanks, but a newcomer would invite disaster by the attempt.

There are many rules to combining the ratio of fish to tank volume, but one of the most common is through measuring the total length of your fish and comparing that to the volume of tank. One safe option is to measure 1 cm of fish for every 2 liters of water. Thus, a 60 liter tank (16 gallons) could reliably support 30 cm (12 inches) of fish.

Stop buying every fish that takes your fancy. If you buy more fish, you must first buy another aquarium.
Also check the adult size of the young fish you buy. When your fish start to grow they can become overcrowded.

Number five: choosing incompatible fish

Suggested compatible fish

Appropriate research into the needs and behaviors of your fish is key to maintaining a safe and pleasant environment for them. Certain species require very different water conditions, and others will behave aggressively. It helps to have the advice of an experienced aquarist on hand when choosing your fish so that you can enjoy a colorful, rewarding selection of fish.

While there are numerous guides available for choosing your first group of fish, and many helpful suggestions can be found online, even the most studied of newcomers can make mistakes. Taking fish behavior, ideal water conditions, and favorite position in the tank (bottom-dwellers, surface feeders, etc.) into consideration is best done with the help of a mentor.

Number six: overfeeding

Easily the most common mistake made by new fish owners, overfeeding can have disastrous consequences on the condition of your tank. Fish are opportunistic eaters that will generally consume whatever food is present—just because they eat does not mean they needed to be fed.

When starting out, feed your fish once per day, taking care to test the water before feeding and, if necessary, withhold their food for a day or two. You are not starving your fish, but making sure that their waste is effectively processed before you introduce more food. Give them only enough food for them to finish in five minutes, and they should be fine.

Number seven: infrequent water changes

Many new aquarium owners, having learned about the nitrogen cycle and taken the time to set up their tank properly, make the mistake of believing that this chemical cycle will take care of all waste in the tank. While it does convert harmful ammonia into nitrate, it does not protect against high levels of nitrate which can irritate fish—you still need to perform water changes and hover your substrate every week.

Also do not change more than 25% of the water at any one time.

Number eight: insufficient filtration

Your filter could be the single most important piece of equipment in your tank. Not only does it separate debris from your water, but most of the beneficial bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle inhabit the filter medium. For this reason, you should err on the side of over-sizing your filter.

For the best results, purchase a filter that can turn the volume of your aquarium 4 or 5 times per hour. This is slightly more than commonly recommended, and ensures that you have enough power to keep your water in prime condition. Remember, too much filtration is never a problem, but insufficient filtration is a constant frustration.

Number nine: not adhering to a maintenance schedule

Suggested maintenance schedule

This mistake is often the root cause of mistake number seven. Fish keeping is not a set-and-forget hobby—you need to apply yourself to keeping your fish healthy on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your aquarium, you will need to dedicate between one and three hours per week to cleaning the tank, testing the water, and performing your water changes.

Doing this effectively requires that you introduce this into your weekly schedule. Newcomers to the hobby who attempt to rely on their intuition will suffer disastrous consequences eventually. Keeping track of your maintenance schedule is key to success, and easy to organize: simply set up a reminder program in a calendar application on your computer or smart phone for reliable reminders.

Change 10% of the water every week should be fine for most fish. Rinse the filter out in aquarium water when the flow starts to slow down.

Number ten: not including live plants

Suggested beginners plants

While newcomers to the aquarium hobby often like the look of live plants, they frequently omit these important and helpful aquarium guests, thinking that they require too much maintenance. In reality, live plants reduce maintenance needs by passively out-competing algae for nutrients in the tank and oxygenating the water efficiently.

If you want to ensure the greatest conditions possible for your first aquarium, invest in some hardy live plants and let them perform some of the work for you. You will be glad you did!

Even if you have a good filter removing the fishes waste products. Over time nitrates will build up. When you do water changes you dilute the nitrate however you do not remove it entirely. Plants remove nitrate so helping to remove the low level waste of nitrates.

Plants also help to remove some toxins from the water. Plants help prevent algae by absorbing fertiliser from the water before algae can absorb it.

Don’t buy snails to clean algae, they will just eat your plants and poop everywhere.
Also, don’t leave your aquarium by a sunny window. You will just get a tank full of green water, even with plants. And don’t leave your aquarium light on all the time. 8-10 hours a day is sufficient.

Conclusion

The decision to keep your first aquarium can be an exciting one, and it is easy to rush into things, but the best results come to the aquarists who focus patiently on providing the best environment for their fish. Address these ten common mistakes to enjoy the best chance of success for your first fish tank.

 

Nano fish in a nano aquarium

litretank15

The Nano Fish Aquarium: Benefits, Drawbacks, And Guidelines For Use

15 litre nano tank
15 litre nano tank

Nano aquariums are increasingly popular because you can keep them anywhere and cost less than larger aquariums. There are a number of reasons why newcomers and experienced aquarists alike may find themselves interested in purchasing and keeping a nano fish aquarium. It is like the aquarium keeper’s version of bonsai. The small size of these aquariums, generally 56 litres or less, make them ideal for a variety of environments where keeping a large fish tank is out of the question.

These nano aquariums are a very attractive choice for people who would like to keep a small number of fish in their bedroom. Other possible locations include offices and other commercial settings where the presence of a small fish tank can add a pleasant, lively atmosphere. In these situations, it may not be possible to dedicate much space to the fish tank, making the nano fish aquarium a very convenient option.

Some experienced aquarists claim that nano aquariums do not represent a healthy habitat for fish. And that can be true if extra care is not taken to maintain the tank’s health. The truth is that if they are set up and cared for properly, they can harbour an ideal environment. These smaller tanks offer a number of advantages that makes fishkeeping a hobby that is available for everyone.

Benefits of Nano Fish Tanks

chili rasbora
chili rasbora

• Nano aquariums tend to be much less expensive than their larger counterparts, allowing nearly anyone to keep them.

• Their small size ensures that you can find space for them anywhere, and in many cases it is possible to keep several of them without issue.

• Aquariums are often excluded from the, “no pets” rules common to small flats and college dormitories. A nano fish aquarium can be a convenient way to circumvent those rules.

• With their small size they are lighter and can be placed almost anywhere. Nano aquariums do not require dedicated stands.  Nano tanks can be placed on an office desk with ease.
These can serve to make these tanks very attractive for many beginning aquarists, but the pros must be balanced with the cons of keeping such a small tank, as well.

ember tetra
ember tetra

Drawbacks To Keeping A Nano Fish Tank

• Very small aquariums are more susceptible to dramatic changes in water quality due to the much lower volume of water present.

• If a problem with water quality develops, it can turn fatal for the fish very quickly— sometimes within hours.

• Since nano fish tanks are more sensitive to changes in temperature and water chemistry, they require a stricter approach to monitoring water conditions and performing water changes.

• Your fish choices are somewhat limited by the smaller space afforded by a nano fish aquarium. Only small, non-territorial fish should be included in a tank of this size.

jelly bean tetra
jelly bean tetra

Choosing Fish For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

As with any aquarium, you should base your decisions around which fish you would like to keep. It is necessary to select small, peaceful fish who will get along with one another, since it is unlikely that there will be enough room for territorial fish to feel comfortable in. Also smaller fish because of their small size tend to be shoaling fish which you might want to avoid.
There are quite a few species of fish that are small enough to be kept happily in a nano fish aquarium. However, it is necessary to consider the combinations of species carefully in order to be sure that they are all compatible with one another—especially when sharing such a tiny space.
You must take into account that most smaller species are shoaling fish. If you want several different species rather than a shoal of 1 species then you need to find non-shoaling fish.

pygmy sunfish
pygmy sunfish

This is a recommended list of small tropical fish that you should choose from:

best nano aquarium fish

• Dwarf rasbora,
• Chili rasbora,
• Tetras (glowlight, rosy, red phantom, jelly bean, or neon),
Splendid Dwarf Gourami,
• Threadfin Rainbow Fish,
• Lamp Eye,
• Clown Killifish,
• Dwarf Croaking Gourami,

norman's lamp eye fish
norman’s lamp eye fish

• Dwarf Driftwood Catfish,
• Dwarf Ornate Bagrid,
• Dwarf Corydoras,
• Aspidoras Pauciradiatus,
• Marbled Otocinclus,
• Upside Down Catfish,
• Carnegies livebearer,
• Slender Pygmy Swordtail,
• Pygmy Sunfish.

There may be other species available to you at your local aquarist or online and you should certainly investigate all possibilities.

pygmy swordtail
pygmy swordtail

As a quick look at this list will clearly show, a great number of these species are of the dwarf- or pygmy- variety. This is an important distinction since the small space effectively limits the size and number of fish you can keep.

Many of these fish, such as neon tetras and dwarf corydoras, are schooling fish. If you plan on keeping a schooling fish in your mini tank, you will have to make room for 6-8 individuals. This means that just one species can quickly fill up your tank space, making it more difficult to express variety in your choices of fish.

Another issue that you are advised to take into account include the hardiness of the species and how social individual members of that species generally act. Shy fish can have a hard time in small tanks unless you opt for a single species tank.

Choosing fish for beauty

two male sparkling gouramis posturing
two male sparkling gouramis posturing

Select the combination of species that you think will offer you the most striking, colourful and beautiful nano tank that you can keep. But take into consideration: the preferred depths of your fish.

Your fish should be selected not only according to their colour, size, and compatibility, but also according to their most comfortable zone of depth. It is a well-known fact that catfish tend to inhabit the aquarium floor, for example. If you combine these fish with other species that prefer the surface or centre of the tank, you should enjoy less conflict in your tank than you would otherwise. When the fish fully occupy the full depth of the aquarium, it adds interest.

How To Take Care Of Your Nano Fish Aquarium Successfully

threadfin rainbowfish male displaying
threadfin rainbow fish male displaying

The secret is to scale down everything in proportion. This includes the fish, mini-species should predominate. Also the viewing distance must be reduced. Mini aquariums can be quite fascinating when viewed from close up. The plants also must be the mini varieties so that you can several different plants with different colours, leaves and textures. Filter speeds have to be scaled down too. However, you need to scale up your monitoring of the water conditions. A test kit is vital and should be checked more often than a large aquarium.

Once you are sure what species of fish you would like to keep, you will need to consider aquarium placement: In general, it is important to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. An algae bloom could prove to be devastating, so it is best to choose a comfortable indoors area such as the bedroom for your nano fish aquarium and let your aquarium light do its job.

A sponge filter is one of the best options for very small fish tanks, they tend to be small and offer enough filtration to handle the needs of the small volume of water that the tank holds. An air pump is highly recommended as well, although you will want to make sure you do not create too much turbulence in the water.

Water changes for small aquariums should be performed once or even twice a week. The small size of the aquarium means that you can complete your entire water changing procedure in only a minute or two, but skipping a change can have disastrous results, so be sure to remain vigilant and schedule your changes with care.

Plant And Lighting Considerations For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

black line tetra or black neon tetra
blackline tetra black neon tetra

Naturally, you will want to decorate your nano tank, and while live plants may seem like too much trouble to go through for such a small tank, they are can make very beautiful additions that also help keep the nitrogen cycle balanced properly. Java moss is an excellent choice since it is hardy, decorative, and easily cared for. Also floating plants can also add some low maintenance plant life to the mini aquarium.

If you choose to include a live plant in your nano setup, you will need to provide it with an adequate light source. Thankfully, small actinic bulbs are widely available online and in aquarium supply stores. You may not have room for more than a single plant, but it can be a great help in keeping your tiny aquarium healthy.

Buyer’s Beware: Nano Tanks To Be Avoided

Nano aquarists will find a number of nano tanks advertised that are under 5 litres and marketed as, “closed”, “low maintenance” or “no maintenance” aquariums. These products are generally fraudulent they cannot sustain healthy fish for long.

Also avoid tanks that are too small to accommodate a heater or filter. Trying to keep fish alive and healthy without the use of these important tools is asking for trouble.

In general, you should choose tanks and tools from brands that you trust. Low quality nano aquariums will inevitably lead to problems later on. If you choose a trustworthy brand that is known for making professional-quality equipment for your nano fish aquarium, you will rest easier knowing that your fish are in safe hands.

Finally, when you have carefully followed the above steps, you will be ready to sit back and enjoy what might turn out to be a fascinating nano spectacle in your home or office.