Proper care of fish ultimately depends on the species of fish you have. Many species require differing temperatures, salinity, and food. Below is a general guide for fish care and may need to be adjusted based on the type of fish or aquarium you have.
How should you set up a new freshwater aquarium?
Most freshwater tropical fish species require a water temperature of about 76-80 degrees Fahrenheit. So start by adjusting the water temperature and make sure it is consistent for at least 24 hours. Add de-chlorinator to the water. Set up your filtration system and let it run for about 10 days prior to adding fish. Start out slowly adding fish (1-2 fish per 10 gallons every 10-14 days). Add live plants if elected. Monitor your new fish closely while they become acclimated. Do not feed your fish within the first 24 hours. When you do begin feeding, start out slowly and do NOT over feed. Test water and perform a small water change of approximately 1/3 of the tank water several days after addition of fish. After day 15 slowly add more fish if elected. Repeat water change again on day 30 and change water filter cartridges as well.
How should you clean your aquarium?
Water quality is the MOST important part in maintaining a healthy aquarium. Regularly cleaning your aquarium is important to maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. In a balanced state the uneaten fish food and waste is turned into ammonia. In a healthy tank the good bacteria help change the ammonia into non-harmful nitrates. Water changes are important to help keep down the amount of waste in the tank, allowing the good bacteria to keep up and to prevent ammonia levels from becoming too high. Temperature for most freshwater/tropical aquariums should be around 76-80 degrees Fahrenheit and pH should be maintained at 6.5-7.5.
In new aquariums (only several months old), water should be changed about every 2 weeks. In established aquariums, a once per month water change is generally sufficient.
To clean your aquarium:
- Monitor all fish for signs of illness.
- Unplug the equipment and allow it to cool down.
- Clean foam/sponge portion of filtration system in the dirty tank water (do NOT rinse off with clean water as this part of the filter houses the good bacteria). The carbon cartridge should be replaced once per month.
- Scrub algae off glass.
- Use a gravel siphon to clear water from the bottom of the tank, make sure to gently lift the gravel to help filter and remove accumulated waste. Water siphoned should be placed into an aquarium-only bucket (to prevent accidental contamination).
- Do NOT change more than 1/2 of the water at a time.
- Refill with tap water that is close to the temperature of the water remaining in the aquarium. Make sure to add water conditioners and de-chlorinators to the bucket during water changes.
- Wait about 5 minutes after each water change before plugging equipment back in.
How should you feed your fish?
What you feed your fish will vary based on species. You should feed a commercial fish food formulated specifically for the type of fish you have in your aquarium. The key to healthy fish (and a healthy environment) is NOT to overfeed. Start by feeding a small amount of food at a time (4-5 pieces per fish). If they eat it immediately, add a small amount more. If the food starts falling to the bottom of the aquarium, stop feeding. In general, feeding fish once a day to every other day is enough. Remember it is very easy to overfeed and cause an increase in ammonia levels within the tank.