General Aquarium Setup - Beginner's Guide
Beginners, have no fear! Keeping a healthy, happy tank full of fascinating, beautiful fish is EASY! At That Fish Place, we are here to help you create the Aquatic Paradise you've always dreamed of. Here is some basic information to help you get started:
The first step in setting up an aquarium is deciding what kind of fish you would like to keep. Saltwater, freshwater, brackish, community, aggressive, there are thousands of interesting and fun fish, but of course, they all can't live together. Find out about the fish you like: How big will it get? What size aquarium will it need? What kind of water chemistry does it require? What other fish will it get along with? Once you have decided on the fish, you can choose the proper aquarium set up!
Freshwater: 1" Fish for Every Gallon
Saltwater: 1" Fish for Every 3 Gallons
Choose an aquarium. Figure out how big, how tall, and how wide an area you will need. Make sure you have the proper support for your aquarium-they are heavy once they are filled with water and regular cabinets and shelves aren't always strong enough. 1 gallon of water weighs 8.5 pounds. That means a 20 gallon aquarium will weigh 170 pounds!
Outfit your aquarium with your "arsenal" - all the things you'll need for a healthy, balanced aquarium. A heater rule of thumb: 5 watts per gallon.
Once you've filled your aquarium with water, you should let the filter run for a day so that gravel dust, etc., can settle. Now, you are ready to add starter fish. Why starter fish? They are extremely hardy fish that will help to "season" and prepare your aquarium for the fish you really want. Your aquarium water must go through the nitrogen cycle in order for it to be safe for your fish. This cycle is a very stressful time for most fish because the water chemistry goes a little whacky. (Examples of Starter Fish strong enough to withstand Nitrogen Cycle:
Freshwater- Danios, White Clouds, Tiger Barbs. Saltwater- Damsels, Chromis, live rock.)
The Nitrogen Cycle: This is the process by which nitrifying bacteria colonize in your filter and gravel, the single most important step in establishing your aquarium ecosystem. As soon as you add fish to a brand new, clean, clear-watered aquarium, they start to make waste. Excess food and fish waste contains bacteria that will utilize oxygen to break down into ammonia. Ammonia is very toxic to fish, irritating their gill tissues and causing severe damage to other body tissues. The beneficial bacteria multiply in your tank, and further break ammonia down into Nitrite. Nitrite is still very toxic to fish. It destroys the hemoglobin in their blood, which carries their oxygen. In simple terms, nitrite is suffocating your fish. This causes stress, and any kind of stress will affect your fish's immune system, leading to disease and usually death. Lastly, Nitrite breaks down into Nitrate. Far less toxic than ammonia and nitrite, Nitrate is the end product of the nitrogen cycle. This chemical is only toxic at high levels, above 50 parts per million. To keep nitrate at a healthy level, most aquarists do water changes every 14 to 18 days, removing only about 20 percent of their aquarium's water and replacing it with new water. It is important to only change this small amount or you will lose too much bacteria and the cycle will begin again! Live plants also help keep nitrate under control, they use it as fertilizer. The whole cycle usually takes around 4 weeks, depending on how quickly your bacteria grow. It can take longer, especially for saltwater aquariums. There are products available containing actual bacteria, to give your aquarium a little boost through the cycle.
Once your water tests show zeros in Ammonia and Nitrite, and a decent level of Nitrates, you are safe to add the fish of your dreams! Don't add too many fish at once, a high increase in waste can overwhelm the bacteria bed you grew during the Nitrogen Cycle. Once your fish are safe at home, we have plenty of de-stressing products that can help your new fish grow accustomed to its new home quickly and easily.
Maintenance and Feeding. Make sure your fish are getting the proper nutrition by choosing the best food for your fish specifics. You can also supplement with frozen or freeze-drieddelicacies, and certain fish love fresh live plants to munch on! Vitamin and mineral supplements are also available if you choose to have a planted aquarium or reef tank with coral. Chemical-specific filter media or water additives are available to solve high ammonia problems, cloudy water, or any other problems. Remember... Don't over-crowd your aquarium! This can cause ammonia spikes and cloudy water! Remember to do water changes every 14-18 days to keep your nitrate at a healthy level. Gravel siphoning is also good maintenance in which you vacuum out the dirt and grime that has settled in your gravel.