|Written by Jean Anne|
My family has always enjoyed animals of all species, especially fish and reptiles.¬† A few years ago we decided to start our own aquarium to add to the family pets that already consisted of a pit bull, two cats, a ball python and various lizards.¬†Most people are under the impression that you can just put some water in an aquarium, throw in a fish or two and as long as you feed them daily, all is good.¬† It's a little more complicated than that.¬†
The first thing you should do is be sure you are willing to devote the required amount of time to caring for your fish.¬† (Remember that a saltwater tank will require much more maintenance than a freshwater tank.)If you are certain that you really want to make the commitment then start out to the pet stores to compare the vast market of aquariums, decorations and, of course, inhabitants for your tank.¬† I say inhabitants because there is much more than just fish you can use to complete your home aquarium.¬† You might also want to look at frogs, turtles and snails.
To help you decide on the right size aquarium you should do a little research on the inhabitants to make sure your tank will meet their requirements.¬† Some fish will grow quite large very quickly, such as Oscars.¬† Others will tend to stay small, such as Guppies or Neon Tetras.¬† Your pets will be the happiest if you keep them in pairs so they have friends of their own species.¬† You also want to be sure that all inhabitants will be good tank mates with others.¬† (I have made the mistake of not doing my "homework" and it ended up with my oscars eating my crab.)¬†
Once you know the size tank you want, start comparing prices to get the best deal.¬† Some stores will offer a deal if you purchase a complete set up including a filter, air supply, rocks, heater¬†and maybe even a small decoration to add.¬† If you plan on using¬†city tap water¬†you may want to purchase a chemical solution to add to the water to make it safe for inhabitants.¬† The chlorine and other additives could kill your fish if you just use it straight from the¬†faucet.¬†¬† It is best to get the aquarium set up and run it¬†for a few days before you purchase fish.¬† This way the water has been¬†thoroughly filtered and will be safe.¬†
When you purchase your tank inhabitants be sure to get the appropriate food for each individual.¬† Not all fish will consume the same type or amount¬†of food.¬†¬†If you are unsure, you can usually ask at the pet store and they can help you with food choices.¬† When you bring your new pets home it will be best if you don't immediately add them to the tank.¬† Leave them in the bag and put it in the water so they can slowly adjust to any differences in water temperature.¬† You should wait for at least one hour before releasing them into the aquarium.¬†
For the first few days you should watch your new pets closely to be sure they are all getting along well and inspect them for any illnesses that could affect others.¬† If you see any signs such as small white crystals on your fish you should treat them for a condition called ick.¬† It has the potential to be deadly if left untreated.¬†
You will want to clean your filters regularly to keep the water fresh and you may even want to get a plecostomus (algae eater) to help with cleaning.¬† Some people prefer snails for tank cleaning but, beware that once you have snails in your tank they will reproduce very quickly and it is difficult to keep them from taking over the entire aquarium.¬†
If you live in a cooler climate it may be necessary to use a tank heater during the winter months.¬† When using a heater make sure you¬†have an underwater thermometer to closely monitor the temperature and avoid cooking your pets.¬†
Fish tend to like consistancy so feed them at regular times every day.¬† If you need to remove part of the water to add clean water, try to temporarily remove the fish until you are done and replace any decorations you may have needed to move back to their original places.¬† If you decide later on to add new pets, keep an eye out to be sure the others will accept the new ones and not bully them.
All in all an aquarium can be very rewarding and relaxing.¬† So, sit back and enjoy your new pets.¬† Good luck!