I know that the human being and the fish can co-exist peacefully. ~ George W. Bush
Fish have their own graceful mystique as they colorfully circle the confines of their tank-home. Even though as a 'fish parent' you can't pet or snuggle your charges as you would a cat or dog, the aura fish radiate for those who are drawn to them, is rewarding and "naturally therapeutic" according to David Boruchowitz, editor-in-chief of Tropical Fish Hobbyist.
Tip #1 What kind of fish should you get for your home?
Coldwater fish are the easiest to take care of and are highly recommended for novice caretakers. Unlike tropical fish, no heater is required for your tank, although you will need a powerful filtration system to stabilize water quality. The most popuar species of coldwater fish, of which there are more than 100 varieties, is the ubiquitous goldfish.
Rare and exotic goldfish do require highly specialized care and are not recommended for beginners. Other coldwater fish options could include the hardy but shy weather loach, the Buenos Aires, the bloodfin tetras, and the pearl and giant danios, which need a lot of room (preferably a 30-gallon tank) as they are rapid swimmers.
Tip # 2 What kind of tank should you buy?
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The proverbial fish bowl featured above is absolutely the wrong way to house a pet fish. According to the ASPCA, a 20-gallon tank is a good idea for novice fish caretakers even though it may seem like a lot to deal with. One advantage to a bigger tank is the fact that if the filter fails, the water will reman stable for a longer period of time. Select your new fish by asking experts about which species thrive in a cold water tank.
Tip # 3 Where is the best location for the new tank?
This is a decision that requires a great deal of thought as a 20-gallon aquarium filled with water and gravel weighs more than 200 pounds and is not easily moved. Avoid placement in direct sunlight as it can create an unstable water temperature and extreme algae growth. Also, do not put the tank near heating and cooling vents because they can cause rapid temperature swings. Wherever you decide, the spot should be sturdy, such as a counter or a solid table near a sink or water source.
Tip # 4 What kind of decor works best inside the new tank?
No one is suggesting that you consult with your fish as to favored colors and textures, but if there's one thing any fish would vote for if it could, that would be a "hiding place" to get away from it all. This means so much more to your fish than a cute treasure chest or mermaids gently floating along purple-gravelled tank bottoms. Plastic plants can provide camouflage or you can arrange aquarium rocks into te shape of a cave. The choices are endless and only limited by the confines of your imagination.
Tip # 5 What's the best way to set up the new tank?
Buy the tank and get it running for a few days before you add the fish. Rinse the gravel with clean water and place one pound of gravel per pound of water into the tank. Add the desired decorations (rocks, wood, shells etc). You will need a flourescent fixture for your fish that will rotate the light source every 12 hours. Set up the filtration system, which may need one or more filetrs to stabilize the qualiy of the water.
For 20-gallon aquariums, under-gravel filters, whcih are flat and composed of plastic, work well. They should be placed at the bottom of the tank and then covered with gravel. One negative aspect is that when you need to clean this filter, you will have to completely break down the tank. Outside filters hang on the side or the back of the tank and they are easy to clean and very efficient. Every week, you should replace at least one-fifth and up to one-half of the tank water.
Tip # 6 How often should you feed your new fish?
Do not overfeed your new fish as uneaten bits of flakes, pellets or freeze-dried treats dirty the tank and negatively affect the quality of the water. Several small meals daily work well in many instances because the fish consume the food before it reaches the aquarium's bottom. A combination of fresh and dry foods, such as live brine shrimp and certain types of worms provide both balance and variety. (Even fish get bored eating the same thing all the time.) One idea for a nibbling snack is to let algae grow on one small corner of the tank.
These tips will give you your start. Use the pet store staff as your resource guide. They know and understand the needs of the fish they sell and can help you along the gravelly path to healthy fish-ownership nirvana.