Running Premier Aquatics ltd and having worked with fish for many years I sometimes find myself working on autopilot and not putting myself in my customers shoes, with experience in any subject it is quite easy to slip into thinking that everyone knows what you know!
After speaking to a customer yesterday it became apparent that after 12 months of keeping fish she was unaware of some basic information vital to keeping aquarium fish successfully and it is that conversation that has spurred me to write this short blog that will hopefully offer three tips to help you keep your fish tank healthy and thriving. These tips are applicable to Freshwater tropical and coldwater tanks and also marine fishtanks (Although Marine is a specialised subject and not recommended for beginners).
Tip no.1.Keep water not fish!
Sound silly? Not at all, the fish that you keep are in an enclosed ecosystem, if there is something wrong with your water then the fish will be stressed and possibly die. An understanding of the Nitrogen cycle is vital for long term success with any aquarium. By keeping the water clean and healthy your fish will rarely succumb to disease or stress.
Put very simplistically, Fish waste produces ammonia, ammonia is very toxic to fish at all levels, this dangerous ammonia is broken down by bacteria that live in your aquarium (It can take upto 8 weeks for these bacteria to grow), the ammonia is then broken down into nitrite which is also toxic, but also consumed by Bacteria, this is then finally broken down into nitrate (The end process of the Nitrogen cycle.) nitrate is non toxic at lower levels but can be a stresser at higher levels! This acts as a plant and algae food and can be removed and reduced by water changes. Too much nitrate can cause algae issues but we will look at this in another blog article.
Tip no.2. Test your tank water.
It is impossible to look at a tank of water and guess if it is ok! Beginners especially should get into the habit of testing their own water to build up a picture of the tank water health and suitability for the fish that you have chosen. An inexpensive test kit can be worth hundreds to a beginner and save the lives of your new pets. Understanding your own personal water quality and parameters (How acidic or alkaline your water supply is, and how soft or hard your water is) this is vital information which will allow you to make informed choices of livestock for your aquarium and choose fish that suit your natural water conditions.
Tip no.3. Cleaning your filter!
Your new aquarium should come with a filter of some description, usually this is an internal power filter but occasionally a external filter, air powered sponge filter or a hang on the back filter! Regardless of its design it should contain a media within, this media will form two functions, firstly to trap dirt and polish the aquarium water, secondly it will act as a home for bacteria that function to clean the water of Ammonia and Nitrite (Re read tip 1!)
Many beginners come to us at Premier Aquatics with fish health issues, upon questioning a large portion of these new fish keepers have never been informed that cleaning your filter under the tap is a bad thing to do. The local water authority add chlorine and, in some cases, chloramide into the water supply to kill bacteria and make it safe for human consumption.
By cleaning your filter under the tap you will be sterilising the media and killing all the beneficial bacteria that is growing on the media and keeping your ammonia and Nitrites under control! This then starts you at the beginning again and ammonia builds up and quickly pollutes the tank, causes fish deaths, health issues and ultimately creates a condition called new tank syndrome.
Always clean your filter in tank water that you have removed from the aquarium, we recommend a 25% water change weekly. To do this, remove the water from the tank using a syphon hose and bucket, or a large jug. The filter should only require cleaning every few weeks so use the flow to judge, if the flow is strong leave the filter undisturbed, if the flow is reduced then remove the filter, open it to gain access to the media and then gently squeeze the filter sponges into the bucket of tank water that you have removed from the tank. DO NOT clean your filter media under the sink! Add the cleaned filter back to the tank and then top up your aquarium with fresh tap water that has been treated with a dechlorinater to remove chlorine BEFORE it is added to your tank.
I hope that this brief Premier Aquatics blog post helps you to start, maintain and enjoy your aquarium. Look out for more blog posts for beginners that will help you get the most out of your fishtank.
We are available to give advice at our shop (Premier Aquatics ltd, Heath business park, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA74QX) or via our social media https://www.facebook.com/premieraquatics.co.uk or you can call us on 07725516558 during opening hours 11am to 5pm seven days a week.