Setting Up Your Fish Tank

Is your family thinking of adding a fish tank to your home? Fish tanks are a wonderful place to observe a habitat on a smaller scale. It’s like having your very own window into a fresh water riverbed or saltwater ocean.

But setting up a fish tank is not as simple as buying a tank and filling it with water and fish. Fish are not “easy” pets to care for. Their water must be kept very clean and often at a certain temperature, just to keep the fish alive. For example, goldfish are happy in a wide range of water temperatures – sometimes downright chilling, but African and South American fish come from tropical climates and require constant water temperatures ranging from 70 to 78 degrees, which is higher than normal room temperature.

Most people think that you can put fish in a tank and they will take care of themselves. Because they are in a closed environment, bacteria and algae can build up making it difficult for the fish to thrive. Millions of fish die prematurely from improper care, such as poor water filtration, and from negligence, such as not doing monthly water changes to help keep the water “breathable” for the fish. When you accept the responsibility of caring for any animal, you must offer the best possible care and, in the case of fish this requires a regular routine of care and maintenance to keep their tank in good condition.

When you purchase your fish, ask where they came from, and only buy fish that haven’t been taken from the wild. Entire coral reefs have been stripped lifeless for the pet trade. Fortunately, many fish today are raised on fish farms, so you have lots of fascinating species to choose from without adding to the destruction of natural habitats.

If you no longer want your fish and cannot find them a new home with a friend or an aquarium shop, take them to your local humane society. In fact, check with the local humane society first to see if anyone has brought in a tank of fish. You might adopt a few fish for your tank this way – and save some lives too.

Supply List

Here is a list of items that you will need to get your new tank started.

  • An aquarium
  • An aquarium stand
  • Air pumps and under gravel filter
  • Lighting
  • A hood
  • Decorations
  • Gravel
  • Plants (Live or plastic)
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Chemical additive that removes chlorine from water
  • Fish food
  • Fish

Fish Temperaments

You probably didn’t know that fish have very different temperaments. Fish species can be divided into three temperament categories.

Social varieties
These are fish that get along well with other fish, like danios, tetras, Corydoras, mollies, guppies, and swordtails.

Semi-social varieties
These fish can be kept with fish of equal size without becoming overly aggressive, such as the barbs, gouramis, and angelfish.

Aggressive varieties
These fish must be kept singly or in pairs, such as the jewelfish, oscars, and male betas.

Choose your fish from one single category to ensure they will all get along well in the tank.

Setting Up Your Tank

Set up your fish’s future home several days before you purchase your new pets, so that the water temperature has time to stabilize and toxins have a chance to dissolve. Don't put the tank in direct sunlight or near a heating or cooling source, because they can promote algae growth and fluctuate the water temperature.

Rinse everything that's going in your aquarium with tap water, including the aquarium itself, and check it for leaks. Don't use any soaps or cleaning solutions, since even small amounts can be toxic. To protect your fish against any toxins, designate a special bucket and scrubber just for aquarium use.

Float the bag your new fish comes home in, in the aquarium for five to ten minutes to allow the water temperatures to equalize. Open the bag and add tank water until the water volume doubles in the bag. Wait another five minutes, then gently net the fish out of the bag and place them in your tank. Don’t add water from the bag into your tank, as it could contaminate the water in your tank.

Fish Care List

If you have pet dogs or cats, you know that they need to be fed, brushed, exercised, and provided with health care. Your fish will have specific requirements different from your furry pets, but which are just as important to their overall well-being and health. Here is a list of things you will have to do regularly to make sure your fish tank is healthy and clean.

  • Check daily to make sure all fish are present and healthy. If you find a dead fish, scoop him out with a net immediately.

  • Make sure the filters are working and the temperature is between 70 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Every week, scrape algae off the inside of the glass walls and trim excess growth and dead leaves from live plants.

  • Every month, gently “vacuum” the gravel in the tank with a siphon hose along the top of the gravel. This should remove about one-third of the water, which you then replace with treated tap water at an equal temperature.

As you can see, an aquarium takes constant effort and attention. Remember that your tank is an environment and that each species of fish has a special niche in nature – a way of life that's unchangeable and can't be compromised. So think carefully before investing in an aquarium – a lot of lives will depend on you.

For a detailed brochure on how to set up a fish tank, have an adult contact AHA at 303-792-9900. The brochure guides you through every step of the process to ensure that your new aquatic habitat will be an environment that fish can happily thrive in.

Setting Up Your Fish Tank

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