Could Fish Be in Your Future? Aquarium Care 101

*Written for Women’s Edition (Cuddly Critters) –


With no limits but the imagination, aquariums are emerging as focal points in commercial lobbies, as elaborate inlaid headboards, or even as unique conversation pieces fit under staircases. With tanks of all sizes and fish of all colors, an aquarium can create a feeling of relaxation and tranquility by housing a dazzling array of coral, leafy plants, and fish.

Before embarking on your aquarium design quest, however, it is essential to know the basic ins and outs of the type of fish you want as well as their individual care requirements. An aquarium is a long-term investment; most fish, depending on breed and care, can live between five and 10 years. As with owning any pets, it takes time and dedication to keep an aquarium in tip-top condition for the sake of your aquatic beauties.

Generally speaking, the bigger the tank is, the more maintenance and care it will need to keep its filtration system clean. For beginners, especially families with children or other pets, the best starter aquarium is a small one (with a lid for prying paws and fingers). With a tank that holds between one and 10 gallons of water, weekly maintenance can be as easy as cleaning the filter, changing out some of the water, and removing built-up residue. For younger children, an aquarium can create the perfect opportunity to learn the responsibilities of caring for a pet.

If you decide to go with a grander aquarium and a more opulent marine display, there are a few additional steps that need to be taken before your fish can move in. If you opt for a freshwater aquarium, you must first set up the aquarium (filled with water) and let the filter run for at least 24 hours. This will allow the good and bad bacteria in the aquarium to balance out. After that, you can add in a small number of hardy fish, such as danios or gourami, that can withstand a certain amount of ammonia and nitrites in the water. These small fish are generally non-aggressive and can get along with other fish in the vicinity.

Some other freshwater fish that are very popular include neon tetras, guppies, oscars (known to perform “tricks” and eat directly from the hand), mollies (watch out—they breed like bunnies!), platies, discus, and bettas. Not all these fish live harmoniously, so it is essential to do your research before buying a particular breed. You should never buy a fish simply because of its looks! Each species has its own set of care instructions; the more extensive these requirements, the more expensive it will be to care for your fishy friends.
Siamese Fighting fish

To care for a larger aquarium, be sure to check the temperature and pH levels daily. Weekly, replace at least 10 percent of the current water supply with fresh, clean water and clean away any residual algae that may have built up. Monthly, replace 25 percent of the tank’s water with clean water, inspect or replace the filter components, and trim growing plants (if necessary). For tanks under 55 gallons, an under-gravel filter or an external power filter is recommended to cycle the water continuously and draw out impurities.

A saltwater aquarium offers the exquisite beauty of saltwater fish, but there are many important factors to consider before making the costly and time-consuming decision to care for a saltwater aquarium. First of all: If the care and maintenance of a freshwater tank sounds like a lot, saltwater tank maintenance will make it seem like a walk in the park. Also, the cost to set up a saltwater aquarium is significantly higher than a freshwater tank. However, because of the element of saline in the water, owners have the fascinating option of growing a coral reef in their aquariums. Of course, there’s also the benefit of raising some stunning saltwater fish.

The most beautiful schooling saltwater fish are the tiny neon tetras, which are red with a neon blue stripe. Coral beauty angelfish, butterfly fish, clown fish, tangs, fire-fish, and dottybacks are all vibrantly colored and will create a symphony of color in any lobby or living space. Keep in mind that the rarity and beauty of saltwater fish can raise the price of your aquarium even more—prices can reach over $100 for a single fish, and some of them are not sold in pet stores.

Clown Fish

Consider starting an aquarium! It’s a great way to bring beauty to your home or office and to teach your kids about the responsibilities of pet ownership. As you likely know if you’ve ever gazed into an aquarium, watching fish can induce a meditative state with all its potential benefits, including lower blood pressure and decreased stress and anxiety.

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