Taking the Frustration Out of Keeping a Fish Tank!
Fish Care Guides & Top Questions
Equipment & Aquatic Plants
Fish Tank FAQ's
What is the best aquarium size for a beginner?
This may surprise you, but for a beginner, the larger the tank the better.
You ought to try getting the largest aquarium you can fit into your space and budget. You should get a least a 20-gallon tank, but if you can afford it aim for a 55+ tank.
Here are the reasons why:
- The bigger a tank is, the more stable it is — and you need stability if you want your fish to actually live. Aside from feeding mistakes, the most common fish killer is water condition fluctuations. When the temperature or other water conditions change quickly, it’s bad for the fish. And with a bigger tank, changes come in more slowly.
- You get a better education with a larger tank, since you get a larger space you can fill with a variety of fish species living together.
- It’s also less work and less money spent in the long run. Larger tanks are easier to maintain, and you’ll lose fewer fish as well.
How many fish should I begin with?
If you’re a beginner, you only need 1.
That’s right. You ought to start with just one fish species. In fact, you better start with just one fish to be on the safe side. It’s a matter of training yourself for your responsibilities. By limiting yourself to just a single fish, you limit the risk if you make a mistake, such as forgetting to feed the fish or neglecting to clean the water.
Of course later on, you’ll be tempted to add more fish.
For freshwater tanks, the basic rule of thumb (though there are exceptions) for the maximum number of fish is 1 inch of fish for every gallon of water. That’s for a rectangular aquarium. If the shape of the aquarium is irregular, then it’s 1 inch of fish (you measure without including the tail) for every square foot of the aquarium’s surface area.
For a new tank, start with 25% capacity at the most. Then wait 3 weeks to add more, but limit your additions to doubling your present number of fish. You ought to stop at 90% capacity, since you have to allow for fish growth.
For a saltwater tank, the rule of thumb is 3 inches of fish for every square foot of the surface area. Start with 25% capacity, and then wait 6 weeks to test the water for nitrite and ammonia. If both tests read zero, then you can add up to 50% of the fish in the tank. So if you already have 6 inches of fish, you can add up to 3 inches more.
What are the best fish for beginners?
Well, I’ll start my answer by telling you what NOT to get: goldfish!
That’s right, the prototypical starter fish is hardly the best fish a beginner can start with. Consider the fact that goldfish can live up to 20 years, which should give you an idea that those few weeks of life it experiences in a beginner’s aquarium is actually not such a good long life at all.
So what kind of fish should you get if you’re a beginner? Let’s first take a look at the factors that matter the most. They should be inexpensive. They should be very hardy, so that they can survive your mistakes. They should be active and colorful to keep your interest, but they shouldn’t be too aggressive with other fish.
With these standards, let’s take a look at your options:
- Platy. They can get along with other species, as long as they can’t be eaten by those other fish. They’re very colorful, so you won’t get bored with them. They can even five birth to live young, which can be exciting. Just make sure to separate the young from the parents, who will eat their young. But if you find that exciting, too, that’s your call.
- Cherry barbs. You can also get rosy barbs and golden barbs. These look nice, they’re affordable, and they’re also very hardy. They can tolerate various water conditions, and they don’t seem to get sick. What’s more, they’re not livebearers like the platy, which may need more work than a beginner can handle when they want to save the young.
- Endler's livebearer. While guppies in general are very colorful, you need to get one from a very reputable seller so that they don’t die within a few weeks. The Endler’s guppy is hardier, and they’re also fun to watch. Just get an all-male group, unless you want to deal with lots of generations of young.
- White cloud mountain minnow. It’s got beautiful colors, they’re active in a group, and they can tolerate a lot. Just get at least 6, but more is better. The ideal place for these fellas include a large pen space in the middle because they love to swim, but with some hiding places in the rocks.
- Cory catfish. There are lots of types here to choose from, but I’d suggest the pygmy corydoras. They’re cute and active, so they’re very fun to watch. You should get them in a group of at least 8, so they’re not shy and scared.
- Molly. These are related to platies, and they like freshwater with slightly saline conditions. So you’re going to need aquarium salt.
How often should I feed my fish?
Beginners are afraid to forget to feed their fish. As a result, overfeeding the fish has become the most common cause of death for aquarium fish. Putting too much food will clog the filter of the aquarium, and the excess food can break down into toxins that harm the fish.
The right feeding frequency will ultimately depend on the type of fish you get. But usually, fish can do okay with just a single feeding a day. Some fish owners feed their fish twice, and that’s okay too.
The exceptions are herbivore fish which should have live plants inside the aquarium for them to graze on. If that’s not available, then you’ll need to feed them several small feedings a day.
And for very young fish, more frequent feedings are needed too.
But the more important factor here is how much food you should offer. And the general rule is that the amount that the fish can eat completely within 5 minutes. If you’re not sure, then underfeed. You can always feed them a little bit more later. If you offer food the fish refuse to eat anymore, then you’ll need to remove them from the aquarium before they break down.
What is the best location for a fish aquarium in your house?
Let’s get one thing straight. When we talk about “best location”, we’re not talking about what’s best for you. It’s not about the location that gives you the best view of your fish. This is a secondary consideration.
What we need to discuss is what’s best for the fish. That means the location should be good for the health and well-being of the fish, good for the overall setting of the aquarium, easy enough for you to do your aquarium maintenance, and safe overall for the house you live in.
With these factors in mind, here are some tips on finding the best location for the fish (and for you too):
- Keep it away from direct or strong sunlight. Sunlight causes algae infestations that lead to green water. And it can also cause rapid temperature fluctuations that harm the fish.
- Keep it away from vents, radiators and air conditioners. Again, these can cause water temperature changes.
- Keep it away from doors. The impact of a door opening and closing can really stress fish, as the force travels through the wall and the floor to the fish.
- Avoid areas with heavy foot traffic. Fish can be stressed by lots of large moving objects around them. It feels like something bigger than them is about to gobble them up.
- Keep it away from noise. Again, the fish find noise stressful, so stay away from speakers and the piano, and especially the drum set. In fact, nix the drum set altogether or at least put it in another wing of the house.
- Keep it where you can see it. At the same time, it shouldn’t be in a place you’ll rarely visit. You won’t be able to notice problems right away if that’s the case.
- Put the aquarium on a desk or a stand. It has to be stable enough to bear the weight. Don’t put the aquarium on the floor directly, where there’s a greater chance of the aquarium being kicked into pieces.
- Place it near an electrical outlet. You’ll need to power some of your equipment. Just don’t have the outlet too near or directly under the aquarium, so you don’t get a short circuit in case of a spill.
- It should be near a water source. Or else you’ll have trouble changing the water.
- Have enough space around the aquarium. Cramped spaces may discourage you from doing proper maintenance.
How often should I change the water?
The short answer to this question is once a week, especially if your aquarium is heavily stocked. The longest period of time you can go without changing is two weeks, but don’t do this too often. And when we mean “change the water”, we mean change 10 to 20 percent of the water.
Water changes are essential for fish. After all, they can’t go outside to poop. Weekly changes are ideal so they’re not swimming in muck.
Just imagine if you’re the fish…
I already have a tank. What kind of equipment should I use?
Here are some types of equipment you shouldn’t be without:
- Filters. There are several types of aquarium filters. Some are biological, which are absolutely necessary. Mechanical filters can keep the water clear, while chemical filtration can remove toxins.
- Heaters and chillers. These are the devices you need to get the temperature that’s ideal for your fish.
- Air pump. These may be needed to power some filters. They can also keep water from turning stagnant, or to power some ornaments like spinning wheels.
Other types of equipment you need to consider including are lighting fixtures, gravel vacuum, sump, and various aquarium decorations. We have plenty of information on this website that will help you become familiarized with different aquarium devices.