Top Tips For Tropical Fish Keeping

Top Tips for tropical fish keeping, breeding and enjoying your tropical fish hobby


Aquariums and Equipment Tips

  1. Calculate the volume of water in your tank in order to buy the right sized equipment
  2. Make sure the aquarium glass is thick enough to not break under the volume of water.
  3. Buy a standard sized tank. It is easier to find accessories such as hoods, heaters, filters and stands.
  4. Estimate how many fish your tank can hold before you start buying fish.
  5. Deep bodied fish need deeper aquariums and taller plants
  6. Buy an acrylic tank for extra strength and lightness
  7. Very tall tanks are not good for keeping fish
  8. Buy the largest tank you possibly can
  9. Don’t but a tank with a mirrored back
  10. Ideal tank for a beginner is a 20 litre tank.
  11. Buying a second hand aquariums can save you money
  12. A hexagonal aquarium is an attractive alternative
  13. It is better to buy the accessories separately
  14. Always shop around for the best deal. Save money with online purchases
  15. Make sure your doors are wide enough to fit the aquarium
  16. Get your aquarium delivered
  17. Inspect your aquarium before you buy
  18. All glass aquariums must sit on a cushion of polystyrene foam
  19. Large aquariums are heavy so make sure the floor is firm
  20. Large aquariums should only be kept on the ground floor
  21. Position your tank to avoid fumes and fluctuations of temperature and excess light
  22. The tank should be at eye level whilst sitting down to enable easy viewing and standing access
  23. Aquariums should be placed in the corner of a room near a power point and water supply
  24. Plain dark plastic backgrounds can improve an aquariums appearance. Fit them first
  25. Make sure you have adequate access to the hood of the aquarium with space above.
  26. Aquariums can be supported on concrete blocks without the need for a stand
  27. Match your aquarium, stand and cabinet colours to your room.
  28. Do not store medicines and chemicals near the aquarium. They are dangerous to children
  29. Self assembly cabinets can be difficult to piece together.
  30. The lower shelf of a frame tank stand can hold a second tank. But consider weight and children
  31. Holes may need to be drilled in the back of the cabinet or hood for the equipment
  32. Make sure you have good access for feeding and water changes in the hood
  33. Make sure you have a cover glass to prevent splashing of lights and fish jumping
  34. Attach a handle to the aquarium hood with silicon to help you open and close the hood
  35. Hang an air pump on the wall behind a fish tank above water level
  36. Buy a UPS which can maintain power during a power cut


Aquarium Heating Tips

  1. Buy the right sized heater. Calculate 1 watt per litre of water and round up to the next size
  2. Buy two heater thermostats for larger aquariums
  3. A heater guard can protect against damage and fish accidentally scalding themselves
  4. Buy a good quality thermometer and place it mid tank level at the front for easy viewing
  5. Make sure you have suction cup holders to hold the heater away from the glass
  6. Place heaters in a part of the aquarium with good water circulation
  7. Switch off a heater for 15 minutes before removing from an aquarium
  8. Polystyrene sheets covering the aquarium bottom, back and sides can cut down heating bills


Aquarium Lighting Tips

  1. Buy daylight fluorescent tubes to encourage good plant growth
  2. More lighting is needed for a planted aquarium then an unplanted one.
  3. Buy the correct wattage light. 20 watts per 1 foot square of water surface in a planted tank
  4. Unplanted tanks should have lighting at 10 watts per 1 square foot of water surface
  5. Buy a lighting timer to switch on and off the lighting
  6. The lighting should be left on for 12 hours a day
  7. Nocturnal fish prefer dim lighting
  8. Reflectors can increase the brightness of your lighting
  9. Narrower tubes have a higher light output and can be useful in a heavily planted aquarium
  10. Deep tanks need brighter lighting
  11. Replace fluorescent tubes every six months as they fade with time
  12. Maintain the cleanliness of the glass cover to allow light in


Aquarium Water Management Tips

  1. Buy a filter that turns the tank volume four times an hour. Eg a 120 gallon tank must have a 480 gallon per hour filter. This is a minimum.
  2. The most important job a filter does is remove ammonia and nitrate by biological filtration using bacteria
  3. A filter can take 1 to 2 months for bacteria to develop inside. Speed this up by extracting dirt from an old filter onto a new filter.
  4. A bacteria starter culture may be used but there is no guarantee that the bacteria are live.
  5. Internal sponge filters are ideal for small to medium aquaria
  6. Use external power filters for larger aquaria and messy fish.
  7. For medium to large aquaria use two or more filters rather than a single filter.
  8. Always clean your filter sponge by rinsing in a bucket of water taken from the same tank. Do not clean but rather squeeze out all the dirt.
  9. Fluidised  sand bed filters provide excellent biological filtration because of the many particles of sand and the good flow of oxygenated water flowing through.
  10. Never turn off a filter. The bacteria die off and pollute the tank if turned off for more than an hour.
  11. Air powered sponges are excellent for small aquaria and small fry aquaria
  12. Internal box filters are also good but must contain some material that holds bacteria such as sponge.
  13. Do not use an under gravel filter. They tend to have dead areas and collect an excess of dirt that clogs up the gravel.
  14. River fish need more water circulation than pond fish.
  15. Circulate the water with an air stone to prevent cold spots in the tank. The stone is best placed at the bottom of the tank.
  16. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold. So during particularly warm weather use extra aeration and spray cooler water into the tank
  17. Never put water direct from the tap into an aquarium. Always leave water for at least 24 hours before using preferably aerate the water.
  18. Items such as rocks, gravel, wood, flower pots can affect the ph and hardness of the water. Take care in the selection of what you use.
  19. Rocks and other items can be tested by placing in a bucket of water for a week and testing the water.
  20. It is better to test the hardness and ph of your water before you buy your fish. Try to buy fish that like the water conditions from your tap.
  21. Try to keep to one brand of test kit and don’t use out of date kits.
  22. Nitrate shock can kill new purchases placed in an established tank. Test the tank regularly for nitrates and ammonia.
  23. Reverse osmosis kits can leave water sterile with insufficient minerals or even oxygen. Mix with some tap water.
  24. Rainwater can be a good source of soft water but will need filtering with activated carbon before using.
  25. Zeolite can be used as a stop gap measure to remove ammonia from the water.
  26. Use sphagnum peat moss to soften hard tap water. Save money by buying from the garden centre but be very careful of additives.
  27. Fish medications can kill off the beneficial bacteria in a biological filter. It is best to treat sick fish in a quarantine tank.
  28. Nylon stockings can be used to hold sphagnum peat moss
  29. The main cause of fish itching is not parasites. Water condition and fine particles can irritate fishes skin and gills. Use a particle filter to remove irritating particles
  30. Use natural substances instead of chemicals to change the ph of the aquarium. Use peat to acidify and coral sand to alkalinise the water. Gradual ph changes are a must
  31. New tanks may turn cloudy, which is natural. It will soo clear. However,  cloudiness in a mature tank is a sign of problems. Daily changes of water of 30%  until it clears is a must. Also do water tests before and after the water changes.
  32. Avoid dust, fumes and aerosol sprays in the same room as an aquarium. If it is unavoidable then seal the tank with cling film and aerate the water from an air pump in another room.

Aquarium Planting Tips

  1. Plants like fish, prefer different water conditions depending on the species. Also some plants thrive in bright light while other plants prefer shade.
  2. Always buy clean healthy specimens from a reputable source.
  3. Always keep plants in water even when waiting for a tank to be ready.
  4. Plants may take time to settle in a new tank. They may die back before starting to grow again. Unless a plant is rotten give the plant a chance to thrive.
  5. Wash plants before use. Plants grown in commercial nurseries often use pesticides which could be lethal to fish. Rinse then leave to soak in a bucket of water overnight.
  6. If you can, inspect the roots of potted plants. White roots growing through the pot are a good sign.
  7. Like fish, buy plants that are suited to the water conditions of your tap water.
  8. When buying bulb aquarium plants check for little stumps on the ends of the leaves and other signs of growth.
  9. Sometimes aquarium shops will sell a mixed bag of leftover plants cheaply. It is worth buying these and seeing which plants actually thrive in your aquarium.
  10. Be careful not to buy a plant that has been grown above water. Buy submerged plants.
  11. New plants need fertiliser to get established. Tetra plant fertilisers are as good as any. Drops or tablets. Not too much as this causes algae(green water)
  12. Use a nutrient rich gravel such as laterite which are porous can help the plants as well as helping the beneficial bacteria.
  13. Organic fertilisers are also possible, such as hamster, gerbil, rabbit, guinea pig droppings. Push a pellet near the roots.
  14. Chlorine can also affect plants damaging plant cells. Use aged aerated water of 4 or more days old.
  15. Do not bury bulbs of plants in the gravel. Just place on top of the gravel and hold in place with a weight.
  16. If you have a deep tank (front to back) then use two fluorescent tubes to cover the width.
  17. The lighting level should be 10watts per square foot of water surface or more.
  18. To attach Java moss or similar plants to wood or rock, carefully place the plant and wood inside a hair net. After a few weeks the roots will attach.
  19. Always place the brightest fluorescent tube near the front so that it can reflect off the plants.
  20. Some plants turn red or pink when there is too much light in the aquarium.
  21. Plants will need pruning. This keeps them in good condition. Any pruned stems can be replanted to create new plants. Remove dead leaves regularly
  22. A reverse flow undergravel filter can be used together with a particle filter that filters the water before it goes into the gravel. This is good for plants and biological filtration.
  23. Some plants absorb phosphates which will prevent algae(green water), such as hornwort, hygrophila, sea grass.
  24. If plant leaves get covered in brown slime then you are over feeding with protein rich food. Cut down the amount.
  25. Buy single specimens of plants and take cuttings and place them in a glass jar out of direct sunlight. Feed with a little plant food and some carbonated water. 50ml daily.
  26. Herbivorous fish will eat the plants. Feed with tasty vegetable matter such as lettuce cucumber and vegetable food.
  27. Plants can be affected by medications. Copper based medicines are the worst. Move the plants to a quarantine tank and treat the plants with a broad spectrum bactericide.
  28. Snails are a nuisance in a planted aquarium. However some species are helpful, eating detritus or algae and not plants. Remove the troublesome ones with some clown loaches which eat snails.
  29. Floating or surface plants can be affected by aphids. To remove wash them in soapy water for five seconds before rinsing and putting back the plants.
  30. Algae and green water can be a problem when it covers the plants. Some fish eat algae as well as some snails. Green water is a sign of excess nutrients but may clear up in a new tank.
  31. When cleaning the aquarium avoid moving large plants with extensive roots. They may die.
  32. If it is necessary to move a large plant then use a large net and slide it under all the roots and gravel. Lift the intact plant and root system to move it.
  33. Plants that feed through the leaves need a constant flow of water over the leaves to provide waterborne nutrition.
  34. A few sets of quality plants well placed in an aquarium is better than a large variety of badly placed unrelated species. They can be left to grow to fill the spaces.
  35. Some plants tolerate low light levels and may be ideal if you have fish that like dim conditions or a low tech tank.
  36. Japonica shrimps can be used to remove algae and debris on the plants. Buy a group of them and set them to work.
  37. Floating plants can add another layer of beauty to the tank. Good choices are salvinia, pisia, riccia, limnobium, and lemna.
  38. Use specimen plants as a centrepiece. A single large plant surrounded by several smaller plants can be attractive.


Aquascaping Tips

  1. Plan your aquascape. Use two diagrams. One from the top and one from the front.
  2. Make a list of the plants and items you will need.
  3. To create a natural effect combine formal design with informal elements. Scatter mixtures of gravel, stones, and wood around the aquarium
  4. Nature is a great source of inspiration for design of aquascapes. Look through river, pond and lake underwater scenes until you find a scene that you like.
  5. Heavily planted aquariums are best suited for swamp fish. Lightly planted aquariums are best suited for fast swimming fish or cichlids.
  6. When recreating a scene from nature it is easier to find alternative similar plants than the exact species
  7. An all black Matt background is great for most aquascapes or a 3d aquscape picture. This is to hide unsightly cables.
  8. Use a mixture of gravel types and colours to create a more natural effect
  9. Use a gravel tidy to separate different layers of gravel or to stop cichlids making too much of a mess
  10. Keep churning aquarium sand twice a week to stop it turning black.
  11. Scavengers or bottom dwelling fish can scrape themselves on gravel. For these fish use smooth gravel or even sand.
  12. Darker gravels can actually brighten an aquarium by giving contrast to fish and plants
  13. Normal fireplace coal once cleaned up can be used as a decorative piece in an aquarium
  14. For a large rock or piece of wood break off some smaller pieces and scatter them round the base of the larger piece
  15. Large rocks with sharp edges can crack the aquarium so place a layer of criss cross plastice underneath the rock hidden by gravel
  16. Rocky backgrounds can be held in place on the rear glass using silicone. Lean the aquarium back at 45 degrees until the silicone dries
  17. Lava rock is safe to use in an aquarium and can be broken into the desired shape easily
  18. Use a waterproof silicone based adhesive to glue items together in the water
  19. Some rocks are calcium based which will affect ph and hardness. Test with a strong acid to see if the rock fizzes.
  20. Rocks collected from the wild can contain pollutants. If you do use them then soak them in a large quantity of water for a month. And carefully observe the fish when you add them and do water tests
  21. Most cichlids prefer smooth flat rocks. Loaches and catfish like smooth rounded rocks that they can hide between
  22. Bogwood can turn the water brown. This can be left or it can be filtered out using activated charcoal. Check the ph after adding bogwood for several weeks
  23. Bogwood may not have been presoaked and will need treating by boiling, flushing then soaking  for two weeks. When placed in the aquarium keep checking the ph.
  24. You can use deadwood such as twigs if they are completely dead and dried out with no green matter. Test the twigs by bending the thickest part. If it snaps then it is okay. Also soak before using
  25. Overhanging twigs that droop into the tank can give a very natural effect to the aquarium. Also you can grow moss on these overhanging twigs
  26. Artificial rocks and pieces of wood can look quite natural once they have aged and been blended into the decor. Also they guarantee safety from pollutants
  27. Clean artificial decor by soaking overnight in a bucket of water and scrubbing the next day. Avoid using chemicals
  28. Hide unsightly equipment with artificial decor. But make sure to allow easy access and good water flow around heaters and filters.
  29. Heater guards can be used to protect the glass of a heater from rock work
  30. Plant longer plants at the back and shorter varieties in the foreground.
  31. Some plants prefer to grow on rocks or wood. Use some black cotton to attach the plant until the plant attaches itself
  32. For fish breeding you will need specific plants such as amazon swords for angelfish and cabomba for egg scattering fish
  33. Regularly clean algae from the front glass but leave algae on the rear and sides.
  34. Slope the gravel from back to front and make pathways for dirt and debris to roll to the front for cleaning
  35. Placing airstones underneath a pile of rocks can be a nice effect with a cloud of bubbles rising from the rocks
  36. Placing the airstone in front of a the outflow from a filter outflow will create a sense of movement. when the bubbles are blown downstream
  37. Use a powerful air pump with t-dividers and control valves to have bubbles coming from several airstones
  38. Spotlights shining down at an angle into the aquarium can have the effect of sunlight shining through vegetation
  39. Some decor is gimmicky and might be fun for a day or two but after a week it will be junk so don’t buy such items


Tips for Buying Fish

  1. Always prepare yourself before buying fish by buying the aquarium first and setting it up and finding out about which fish are suitable
  2. Start out with easy to keep fish that are aquarium bred and like the local tap water conditions
  3. It is better to buy from a local aquarist shop where the water conditions are the same as yours. Ask the dealer whether these are local fish or imports
  4. Remember not to overstock your fish. Also, consider the growth potential of your fish and leav plenty of room for expected growth
  5. Visit an aquarist midweek morning time when he is quietest so that you can ask him questions about the fish.
  6. Make sure all the fish in the tank are healthy not just the fish you are buying. Illnesses can and do spread.
  7. You should insist the dealer buys you a particular fish you have chosen. If he refuses go elsewhere.
  8. When ordering fish by mail order or fish not in stock always quote the scientific and common name.
  9. Avoid fish that have been selectively bred for artificial traits or fish that are a hybrid of two species
  10. Buy healthy fish. Healthy fish are altert, come quickly for food, have bright clear colours, clear eyes, have fins fully extended, have no fin rot, fungus or red patches on them.
  11. To buy a potential breeding pair, it may be necessary to buy a minimum of six youngsters.
  12. For breeding select males and females from different suppliers. Try to ensure that the male and female are not related.
  13. Avoid buying wild stock. However, an experienced breeder may buy in wild stock to enhance the bloodline of his stock.
  14. Fish in an aquarists tank may look washed out compared to pictures in books. This may be just due to poor lighting conditions and surroundings
  15. Don’t buy fish from shows. These fish are usually stressed out and may not be kept in ideal conditions during the show.
  16. Examine the fish closely after you have selected it and it is in the bag. Check its undersides for damage or infection.
  17. When new species or breeds first come available it may be worth while waiting a couple of years for the price to drop.
  18. Small fish are at risk of getting trapped in the corners of the plastic bag on the way home. It is better to fold over the corners and taping up first
  19. Fish with spines, sharp fins or teeth can pierce the bag on the way home. Place them in a plastic container with a lid to take them home.
  20. Use a polystyrene box to place the bagged fish to take home. Pack the spaces with crumpled newspaper
  21. To transfer the fish from the bag to the aquarium, place the bag in the water for 15 minutes. Then open the bag and pour the water out.
  22. Always quarantine new fish when adding to an established aquarium of fish.
  23. Before introducing new fish into an established aquarium change the decor to deestablish territories.
  24. Sometimes new fish don’t feed for several days. It is best to leave the alone with subdued lighting until they settle in.
  25. Most dealers guaranteed replacing new fish that die within 48 hours of purchase, but check first.
  26. Fish should be added slowly over time. Add small hardy fish fish and over several weeks add larger and larger fish
  27. See the fish are hungry and eating before you buy. Fish that are refusing food are stressed and may die after purchase or continue to refuse food.


Fish Feeding Tips

  1. Fish can be mostly vegetarian or mostly meat eaters or omnivores. There are three types of feeding behaviour. Surface feeders take food from the surface and have up turned mouths. Mid feeders have forward pointing mouths. Bottom feeders have down turned mouths and sift through sand or dirt and may have barbels
  2. Keep food in a cool dark dry place. Perhaps in a fridge. Always close the lid immediately.
  3. Do not feed the powder from the bottom of the tub. The fish will not eat it and it will rot and cause pollution
  4. For bottom feeders sand is a good substrate as food wil be more easily found.
  5. Feed the right sized food for your fish. Small fish won’t eat large pellets quickly enough and won’t finish it off. Large fish will miss small pellets.
  6. Food not eaten rots and pollutes the water. Polluted water will kill the fish. Feed only what the fish eat within five minutes. Syphon off any uneaten food.
  7. Do not put wet fingers into dried food containers or let water drip into the container. This causes mould and rotten food.
  8. Buy small containers of food. Large containers of food will go stale before you can finish the container.
  9. Always offer fish a variety of foods. Fresh vegetation and live food are a necessity to guarantee the fishes vitality.
  10. Feeding too much dried food can result in constipation and bloating.
  11. It can be difficult to ensure all the fish in a community aquarium get fed. Top and middle feeders may eat the food before it gets to the bottom feeders. Overcome this by soaking the food in the water before releasing so that it sinks or buy sinking pellets as well as floating pellets
  12. Feeding live food bought from a pet shop is a nice treat for the fish. However, check the bag of live food to ensure it is mostly living and fresh.
  13. Earth worms are an ideal food. Squeeze out any dirt from the worm. Chop up into mouth sized pieces and rinse before feeding the fish.
  14. Most insects from the garden can be fed to the fish. But avoid brightly coloured insects which are usually a sign of being poisonous
  15. Live food from ponds without fish are usually safe to feed directly to your fish.
  16. Anglers maggots can be fed to fish, but only the white uncoloured ones.
  17. Buy a variety pack of frozen foods so that you can see which food your fish likes best.
  18. Tubifex worms usually harbour disease and will need medicating with wide spectrum antibiotic before feeding
  19. Most fish need live food in order to get them into tip top condition for breeding.
  20. Surface feeding fish usually only eat live insects from the surface of the aquarium.
  21. Create your own supply of live food by setting up a white worm colony. Several colonies will be needed at the same time. They go stale.
  22. Refrigerated sea food packs from the supermarket can make a good source of food for carnivorous species
  23. Live baby fish are the best food for piranha and other meat eating fish.
  24. Herbivorous fish can be fed with lettuce, cucumber slices, fresh garden peas and other fresh vegetable matter.
  25. Never feed with cheese, meat with fats, sugary foods, bread, biscuits.
  26. Beef hearts and ox livers are good meat alternatives for fish. This should be chopped and fed to your fish.
  27. Make your own fish food with raw lean meats such as beef heart and dried food. Mince up the meat and mix in the dried food. Create a paste and then freeze the pieces in an ice cube tray.
  28. Discard any frozen foods if they have at any time defrosted. Refreezing defrosted food is dangerous
  29. Use silica gel packs inside dry fish food to remove moisture from the food. Remember to bake dry the silica gel every few weeks
  30. When feeding adult brineshrimp be careful of the amount of salt that gets added to the aquarium with the shrimp. Use a syringe or eye dropper to suck up the shrimp and leaving the water behind before feeding.
  31. Newly hatched fish don’t need feeding until they have become free swimming. But when they are free swimming they will die within hours without food.
  32. Young fry can be fed with infusoria, microworms and baby brine shrimp
  33. Young fry need to be fed little and often. About 5 times a day is essential for growth.
  34. Air powered sponge filters will have infusoria attached to the sponge surface which the fry will graze on.
  35. Pygmy puffer fish (freshwater variety) feed on snails. They can be used to control the nuisance snail population.
  36. If food is being sucked into the filter then it is okay to turn off the filter for five minutes after feeding. Always remember to turn back on.
  37. Feed most fish twice a day. Morning and evening. Only feed as much as they can eat within five minutes. Siphon off any uneaten food.
  38. Feed nocturnal catfish at night with algae pellets. Feed after you have turned off the lights and the room is dark.
  39. For a holiday of up to two weeks, the best thing is not to feed the fish if they are adults. The fast will do them no harm, although they might browse off the plants a little.
  40. Fish usually eat a variety of food and are usually not strictly vegetarian of carnivorous.
  41. Garlic powder is a useful supplement for fish. It can be mixed with pellet food by dampening the pellet food and dipping it into the garlic powder. Leave overnight and feed the next day.
  42. Always buy small quantities of high quality branded fish food. Avoid bulk savings and unbranded food.
  43. Larger fish can create a mess when eating pellet food because they chew on the pellets and expel small particles through the gills. It is a good idea to siphon all the particles after feeding time.
  44. fresh trout eggs can be used as a food for fish.
  45. Some carnivorous fish when hungry will take a nip of your fingers unless they are fed first.


Tropical Fish Keeping Tips

  1. Develop a relationship with your local good aquarist shop. When you become a good customer and show an interest in the fish there. You can discuss future fish purchases making preorders and perhaps selling your latest brood of young fish to him.
  2. Do not disturb the fish unnecessarily. Observe quietly and move quietly around the aquarium. Disturbances stop the fish settling or even breeding.
  3. Observe the fish carefully at the same time each day and at feeding and cleaning times. Any sudden changes in behaviour will be apparent which may be an early indication of a problem.
  4. Visit public aquariums for inspiration in regards to interesting species and also for aquascaping ideas.
  5. Algae can be useful in making rockwork look more natural and also help in eliminating fish waste. Clean the front glass of algae but leave the rest.
  6. For cave dwellers or other bottom dwelling fish do not chase them with a net but rather put a net at right angles to the front glass touching the gravel near one corner and with your hand chase them into the net.
  7. Most aquariums have some sort of rim that prevents you from placing a net flat against the glass. Bend the handle into a step shape so that it clears the rim.
  8. Clean the aquarium glass with a green washing up sponge. Never use and chemicals on it and reserve it just for the aquarium.
  9. Do not buy genetically modified fish or fish with genetic abnormalities or fish that have been dyed. These are cruel practices.
  10. Touch the aquarium glass regularly, twice a day. This will give you a quick indication if the tank is too hot or too cold.
  11. If your contact suckers for thermometer, heater, etc become hard and stop sticking then use silicone to glue the sucker to the glass
  12. If you don’t have a spare tank as an emergency then use a baby bath with a plug in it. Simply put in aged water, sponge filter and heater.
  13. Before you breed your fish, be prepared by creating live food cultures and space to keep the brood.
  14. If an aquarium breaks or leaks then set up a temporary aquarium in a large plastic dustbin or baby bath
  15. During a power cut fill plastic bottles with hot water and float them in the aquarium. Insulate the aquarium with polystyrene or blankets. Use a bicycle pump to provide aeration. Pump 5 minutes every half hour
  16. When breeding take notes of the time, date, temperature, lighting levels, ph, hardness. This will give you a guide to how to improve your skills
  17. Keep a calendar of dates of when to do maintenance tasks and tick off tasks done.
  18. Ninety five percent of fish illnesses arise from environmental factors that weaken the fish. Weakened fish then become susceptible to disease.
  19. Join a local fish keeping club. It will develop your interest and you will get help and advice from fellow fish keepers
  20. When looking for advice or information or want to but a particular species always go by the scientific name
  21. If you acquire endangered fish species, you have a duty to breed them to increase the stock.


Species Specific Tips

  1. Neon Tetras thrive better in normal aquarium conditions compared to cardinal tetras which usually need acidic and soft water.
  2. The elephant nose needs matured water and must be kept in a group of four or more elephant noses. But it is an excellent community fish.
  3. Because of its small size be careful what fish you keep with neons. Other fish can easily make a meal of it.
  4. Spiny fish can be caught in a plastic jar with cling film and a hole in the film with food inside the jar. This will save the spines from injury
  5. Many guppies are prone to guppy disease caused by excessive inbreeding and hormone induced breeding.
  6. Many male Cichlids are larger than the female of a pair so provide refuges for the female. Two or more clay narrow drainage pipes should help her hide
  7. Male sword tails that mature early, with a fully developed sword tail won’t grow as large as males that mature later. Always breed from males that mature later
  8. Harlequins are best kept in large shoals
  9. There are two species of platies. One is tropical and the other is subtropical. The variable or sunset platy is a subtropical fish and may not thrive in a heated aquarium
  10. Mollies prefer a little aquarium salt in the water. They are actually brackish water fish.
  11. Young discus in small groups, less than 6, can bully each other. Larger groups are better.
  12. Hatchet fish are great jumpers and can escape the aquarium and die. So, keep a glass cover on the aquarium
  13. A single large oscar in an aquarium will need stimulation in the form of toys.
  14. Rainbow fish need to be kept in a large mixed sex group in a well planted aquarium to feel secure
  15. Most Siamese fighters bought from an aquarium are usually old and don’t live too long. Buy from a breeder young fish and they will live longer.
  16. Clown loaches like to wedge themselves between rocks. Sometimes they lay on their side to keep themselves in contact with a surface.
  17. Small shoals of silver sharks are notorious for bullying. Provide a larger shoal and a heavily planted tank.
  18. The blind cave tetra is at no disadvantage to other fish in a peaceful community tank. It can sense its way around and find food.
  19. Old favourites such as the American flag fish or paradise fish are just as interesting and beautiful as some of the newer species
  20. Be careful of buying young inoffensive fish that grow into monsters, such as the red snake head.
  21. The penguin tetra has a head up posture which is quite normal. The upside down catfish swims upside down
  22. Surface swimming fish need some surface vegetation or cover, otherwise they will avoid the surface and be nervous.
  23. The sucking loach in adulthood will actually attach itself to flat bodied fish and rasp away at their scales.
  24. The best community fish are barbs, danios and tetras on the whole.
  25. Some fish of a usually peaceful nature will occasionally display rogue aggressive behaviour in a community tank. The only solution is to sell it back to the shop
  26. Tiger barbs when kept in a shoal are model community fish but when kept in a small group or individually will start nipping at other tankmates.
  27. Young fish, of different species, when raised together will usually not harm each other.
  28. Catfish can be night predators and eat small fish when the lights are out and the small fish are asleep.
  29. Red-tailed sharks will scrap with each other and will sometimes attack other unrelated species of a similar colour
  30. Only keep one male fighting fish per tank as they fight sometimes to the death. The females too can be aggressive to each other.
  31. Dwarf, honey and chocolate gouramis are shy and retiring.
  32. The blue gourami is slightly aggressive, especially when breeding.
  33. Kuhli loaches although peaceful can be very secretive and you may not see them for weeks or months because they hide in the gravel or even inside a filter.

Fish Compatibility Tips

  1. Some fish although not shoaling fish, still need others of their own kind as company.
  2. Kribensis and Cockatoo dwarf cichlids make good community aquarium fish. Young angels and rams can make good community fish too.
  3. Keep three females to every male live bearer. The male always chase the female. Having 3 females spreads out the chasing
  4. Don’t mix hyperactive fish with sedate fish. Hyperactive fish such as the silver shark will disturb quiet fish like the angel fish.
  5. Try to keep fish requiring the same or similar temperatures and water conditions
  6. Albino varieties need low level lighting and shade to protect their eyes.


Fish Breeding Tips

  1. Read about how to breed a particular species before you make preparations. Water conditions may be vital. You may also need to set up a breeding aquarium.
  2. Always check your breeding pair for well formed bodies, eyes, mouths and fins. Never breed from deformed fish.
  3. In most species, to tell males from females, look at the body from the top. Males are slimmer. Males are usually more colourful with longer fins.
  4. Livebearer males have a pointed stick like anal fin whereas females have a normal triangle anal fin.
  5. To get fish to breed on cue, separate males from females with a dividing glass. When you are ready, remove the partition and the fish should start breeding.
  6. Other spawning triggers are first light of morning from the sun or a partial water change with cooler water sprayed onto the aquarium.
  7. Set up a breeding tank in advance. Prepare water conditions, spawning plants and equipment. Tanks should be bare bottomed with potted plants. However, cichlids need gravel or sand.
  8. Prepare live foods for young fish in advance. Infusoria, microworms and baby brineshrimp should be on hand before your fish start breeding.
  9. When adjusting the ph and hardness of the water for breeding purposes make gradual daily changes until you reach the required water conditions.
  10. Breeding anabantids that build bubble nests requires you not to use a power filter that will create strong currents that will disturb the nest.
  11. Rainforest fish such as neon tetras need soft water and an acidic ph. Peat in the filter or soaked and sunk in an aquarium will help achieve the correct ph and hardness.
  12. Earthworms, mosquito larvae, maggots are all excellent live foods that will encourage your fish to breed.
  13. Make your own breeding trap with plastic coated wire mesh. The mesh holes should be large enough for eggs or fry to swim through but too small for the adult fish to swim through. The mesh basket should be slightly smaller than the aquarium with the sides at least an inch above the water line. It can be suspended on wires to keep the basket in place.
  14. Spawning mops may be used instead of live plants for breeding fish. These can be made from winds of green wool round a card. Tie the winds at one end and cut the winds at the other end. About 8 inches long is ideal.
  15. Tie the spawning mop to a piece of cork to help it float while the strands dangle down. This will give a realistic enough a look for fish.
  16. The best breeding plants are cabomba for egg layers, Riccia for surface egglayers, java moss is also a good general plant. Broad leaved plants such as amazon swords are favoured for angelfish.
  17. Fry and young fish grow fastest when they have a large aquarium to grow in.
  18. Infusoria can be used as a first food for most small species. Start one culture per day. Mature for a week. Prepare in advance of the fry becoming free swimming. Feed little and often. Four or five times a day.
  19. Brine shrimp can be used as a first food for larger species or as a growing on food for smaller species after infusoria. Again prepare in advance of feeding when the fry are free swimming. Four or five times a day.
  20. Feeding the right quantity of infusoria is difficult to judge. Too much and you risk polluting the water. Too little and the fry starve. Frequent water changes can help keep the pollution levels down.
  21. Microworms can be fed at the same time as brine shrimp and give a bit of variety to the fry’s diet.
  22. Dried brineshrimp eggs can be bought from your aquarist and will come to life and hatch when placed in a container of seawater (made from tap water + pure sea salt) at the correct temperature. Use an airstone and airpump to keep the eggs aerated. A short plastic bottle is ideal half filled. To keep warm float it in the aquarium. Have several batches of brine shrimps going one after the other.
  23. Fry of plant eating species will need to be fed with algae (green water). A special tank can be set up on a brightly lit window sill or with strong lighting. Use old tank water. When the fry get larger feed with crushed green vegetable matter. Be careful of feeding an excess because it will pollute the aquarium. Frequent partial water changes are essential.
  24. Many pests that don’t harm adult fish can attack fry and eggs. Snails eat fish eggs, hydra snare young fry and planaria worms eat fry and eggs at night. These are usually introduced from local pond sources of live food and plants.
  25. Fast growing species can be introduced crushed dried food at four weeks with slower growing smaller species may take up to three months before they will take dried food
  26. Unless you have unlimited tank space then a large spawning of hundreds of fry will have to be ruthlessly culled on a daily basis. Discard deformed fish and runts to make room for the rest.
  27. Some fry will grow a lot faster than others and will eat smaller fry unless moved to another aquarium.
  28. Young fish are more susceptible, than adult fish, to diseases. Thoroughly clean the breeding aquarium and dry out thoroughly for 24 hours before using.
  29. Daily partial water changes with aged water is essential for most fry, especially as they grow and produce more ammonia (urine).
  30. Velvet disease can wipe out a brood of fry. Treat at the first sign of small brownish spots. Velvet is more common in soft, acidic water.
  31. Danios, barbs and rasboras are egg scatterers and can spawn into java moss, spawning mops or a layer of marbles on the aquarium floor.
  32. Most livebearers eat their young on sight so a heavily pregnant female should be removed to a heavily planted aquarium of her own and then removed after she has given birth.
  33. Cave spawners like clay pots and rocky structures as a permanent fixture of their aquarium. This allows them to develop a territory and breeding site.
  34. Bubble nest builders like to incorporate plants into the nest. Floating plants are ideal. To breed, use a male that has built a nest and a female the is swollen with eggs. Tight fitting lids are essential because young fry must not breathe in cold air which will harm their lung.
  35. Siamese fighting fish can be difficult to breed as the male will fight any female in his territory, unless he is ready to mate and she is also ready to mate. Even then he may give her a little battering first.
  36. Cichlids have a large breeding territory that surrounds the breeding site and will defend the site vigorously. This may extend outside the aquarium. It is best to not have other fish in the same tank. However, some cichlids need distracter fish to have something to defend against.
  37. Tank dividers are useful for breeding cichlids. Keeping males separate from females, separating adults from fry, or breeding pairs from other fish.
  38. The best way to obtain a mated pair is to buy 6 or more young fish of similar size and raise together until adulthood. At that point a pair will choose themselves.
  39. Expect breeding cichlids to start uprooting plants and moving gravel or sand. Prepare for this by planting in pots or between rocks and secure equipment well.
  40. Breeding cichlids need peace and quiet. Disturbances can be viewed as being an unsafe environment to raise young, which will result in the adults eating the eggs or fry.
  41. Cichlids need smooth rocks, slate or clay pots to breed on, which they will pick clean before laying their eggs.
  42. Most cichlid fry can be started with brine shrimp and microworms after becoming free swimming.
  43. Never move a mouthbrooding fish from one tank to another.
  44. Be cautious when moving a cichlid to a tank of other cichlids. They will attack new comers. Even a returning fish will have to reestablish its territory and pecking order. Place in a divider where it can be seen before releasing.

Aquarium Maintenance Tips

  1. Small frequent water changes are better than occasional large water changes. Always change with aged water to allow chlorine from tap water to dissipate.
  2. Check the ph and hardness of water before adding to the aquarium. Keep a large plastic barrel or plastic dustbin to store large quantities of water for changes.
  3. Large carnivorous fish need larger or more frequent water changes because of their diet.
  4. Water changes to a breeding aquarium can disturb the parents. Use a air line to siphon off water slowly and a bucket above the aquarium siphoning fresh water back into the aquarium.
  5. While doing the water change sift the end through the gravel to siphon loose waste matter. A self priming siphon pump will prevent you from getting a mouthful of aquarium water.
  6. To clean a sandy substrate run your fingers through the sand thoroughly and churn up the dirt. Use a power filter to filter out the dirt. Do this 2 or 3 times a week.
  7. Do not use undergravel filters because they are difficult to maintain and nearly always create pockets of dirt that clog the filter and foul up.
  8. When cleaning a tank take care not to disturb breeding sites such as flower pots for cave dwellers or plants for plant spawners.
  9. When cleaning a sponge filter, rinse out half of the sponge at a time. This can be achieved by cutting the sponge in two. Do not wash in fresh tap water, but use aged water instead.
  10. Use a flexible bottle brush to clean out pipework. Pipework can get clogged with calcium deposits or algae.
  11. Toothbrushes are handy tools to scrub equipment or rocks or parts of the aquarium magnetic cleaners can’t reach.
  12. Clean the chalky deposits above the water line regularly. These can become unsightly and difficult to remove.
  13. Algae magnet cleaners can be pulled out of the aquarium if they fall if you have a nylon line attached to it. If necessary drill a small hole in the magnet holder and tie some line on it.
  14. Algae on the back and sides of the aquarium can be left. It can act as an extra water purifier in addition to your plants and makes your fish feel more secure in a more natural environment.
  15. Some large fish are capable of swallowing small thermometers. So change either to an external thermometer or to a large sized thermometer.
  16. After aquarium maintenance make sure all outflows from filters are working as before and heaters are working as normal. Check the temperature 2 hours after maintenance.
  17. Use a multi socket electrical lead with individual switches for each plug. You can then switch off each item individually. And there will be a single fuse for each heater, lighter, filter device.
  18. Hydra catch and eat fry. The best way to remove hydra without chemicals is with a 9v battery. Remove fish first. Place a wire from each terminal into the water at each end of the aquarium for 30 minutes.
  19. Flatworms(which are scavengers) in an aquarium is a sign of overfeeding. Reduce the amount of food per feeding.
  20. Buy a maintenance kit for your airpump and replace essential components every six months.


Fish Health Tips

  1. Some aquarium decor is dangerous to fish. Some have sharp edges or corners that can injure fish. Other items may have small holes and crevices which could trap your fish. Some items may leach minerals or chemicals into the water.
  2. Before buying a species of fish find out its care requirements, water requirements and feeding requirements.
  3. Always buy healthy fish. Healthy fish have bright colours, are active, have perfect fins fully extended, have an appetite and do not hide or dart about. However, healthy fish from an unhealthy tank are best avoided.
  4. Quarantine fish and plants when you buy them. Watch out for stress, pollution(by testing the water), bullying, fish flashing off objects. Find the cause and remedy it as soon as possible.
  5. Familiarise yourself with your fishes daily behaviour. Any odd behaviour should put you on alert.
  6. Familiarise yourself with your fishes appearance. Any lost scales, damaged or clamped fins, pale or dark colours, spots, ulcers, cloudy or bulging eyes, swollen bellies, are all signs that should put you on alert of illness.
  7. Fish should be handled as little as possible. Damage may occur to fins, scales or the fish’s protective slime.
  8. Fish catch illnesses when they are run down, stressed, injured or the aquarium has been polluted. Treat your fish but also fix the underlying cause.
  9. A quarantine tank is vital for the serious fish keeper. The quarantine tank can be used to treat fish using medications, allow stressed fish to rest, quarantining newly bought fish and also to store young fry.
  10. If you discover any water problems such as high nitrates or dead fish or rotten food then be cautious with your fish. They may succumb to an illness because of the stress. A dose of sea salt added to the water can be used as a preventative measure.
  11. Always quarantine newly bought fish for between 2 to 4 weeks.
  12. If one fish dies without any sign of illness in any of the fish, this may be due to the individual fish’s weakness. However, if you suddenly lose two or more fish of different species then this is a sign of environmental problems in the water. If two or more fish from one species starts dying then this is usually a sign of disease.
  13. If any of your fish display mystery symptoms that you can’t identify then thoroughly check all water parameters. Also, do a 25% partial water change. See if this solves the problem.
  14. Always have the phone number and address of a local vet that has knowledge of tropical fish. Any problem you can’t solve take to this vet.
  15. If you can’t save a fish and the fish is suffering then consider terminating the fish. Perhaps a vet can be called to see if the fish can be saved or not.
  16. If a fish suddenly starts swimming with head down or head up or floats to the top or sinks to the bottom, then this is a problem with the swim bladder. This may be caused by eating too much dried food. It may also be caused by injury or old age. Cut out dried foods and treat with wide spectrum antibiotics.
  17. White spot or ich (pronounced ick) is the most common fish illness. It is diagnosed by sight. White pin sized dots on the skin and fins. Treat as soon as possible.
  18. Most bacterial infections are stress related. Symptoms include bloodshot areas, swelling, pop-eye, fin rot, mouth rot, ulcers. Infections are treated with wide spectrum antibiotics.
  19. Healthy fish will not contract fungal infections unless they have an injury. Unhealthy fish can contract fungal infections even without injury. Treat with an antifungal medication
  20. Fish sometimes contract viral infections, which show up as whitish bumps or nodules on the skin. There is no known treatment. However, most fish will recover when kept in healthy conditions.
  21. Skin parasites may be difficult to treat. Slimy or cloudy skin, brown dusty patches, rapid breathing or pale patches are signs of parasite infections. Try a high quality parasite medication.
  22. Mouthrot although it looks like a fungal infection is actually a bacterial infection. Treat with wide spectrum antibiotics.
  23. It is important to keep your gravel clean. This is where all organic matter ends up. When this starts to rot infections will spread to the fish. It is vital to siphon through the gravel every time you do a water change.
  24. Internal fish parasites are difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. Lethargy and emaciation are clues to internal parasites. Try feeding with fish food dosed with an anti parasite medicine.
  25. Dropsy is where a fish swells like a balloon because of excess fluid. The scales stick out and the eyes may bulge. Treat this with a wide spectrum antibiotic, a 25% immediate water change, rinsing the gravel in aged water. It may be possible to use a fine needled syringe to release some of the fluid from the abdomen.
  26. Cloudy eyes, bulging eyes and sunken eyes are all signs of illness. Treat as soon as possible for bacterial infection.
  27. Some growths on the fish can be just a benign tumour and can be ignored if they don’t interfere with swimming, breathing or feeding.
  28. Never use medications unless there is some illness present. Bacteria can build up resistance to the medication.
  29. Keep common medication on hand all the time. Buy before your fish are ill. Buy a broad spectrum antibiotic, an antifungal treatment and an antiparisite medication especially against ich. Also buy an antichlorinator kit that can remove chlorine from tap water.
  30. Some species of tetras, catfishes and loaches are allergic to some medications. Check species information for chemical tolerances.
  31. Always have written down the exact volume of your aquarium. This will allow you to quickly does up the aquarium. Multiply length(in cm) x width(in cm) x depth (in cm) then divide by 1000 to give you the volume in litres.
  32. Increase the aeration in a medicated aquarium with a couple of airstones this will aid in the recovery of the fish.
  33. Do not mix medications in the aquarium. After medicating it is usual to change the water to remove the medication. Note carbon filters remove chemicals so don’t use them during medication. Also medication will kill the beneficial bacteria in a filter. So remove the filter or the fish to another aquarium.
  34. A UV steriliser can be used to eradicate parasites in an aquarium without the use of medication. Water is pumped through the steriliser where a strong UV light kills off any parasites
  35. Invertebrates such as crabs, shrimps and snails usually die if medication is added to the aquarium. These will have to be removed from the aquarium during treatment and returned after treatment.
  36. Remove dead fish immediately from the aquarium. Also, do a daily fish count of all your fish. If any fish are missing then it might have died or been eaten. Do a very check in all nooks and crannies to find the dead fish and remove it.
  37. Aquatic plants may also transmit disease to your aquarium. It is better to quarantine plants for a week or more before adding them to an aquarium. Dose with a broad spectrum antibiotic and rinse under the tap before adding them to the main aquarium.


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