Now that you have set up your freshwater aquarium, I’m sure you can’t wait to see your tropical fish in action! Here are a few tips to make sure this exciting and important part of your aquarium setup is a great success.
The Fishless Cycle
It is vital that you regulate the water in the tank to get it under the right conditions for the fish you plan to introduce (pH, temperature, ammonia and nitrate levels etc). All fish tank aquariums need to be run for 2-8 weeks, depending on the size of your tank, to ensure the tank has completed its nitrogen cycle and the beneficial bacteria have been established. Your tank will have completed its cycle when ammonia and nitrite levels are undetected and nitrate reading levels are around 10.
Selecting Your Fish
You need to resist the urge of fully stocking your tank aquariums and start off small. Select two or three fish to begin with. I suggest starting with a hardy species such as Zebra Danios or White Clouds. Make sure you visit different pet shops to determine which ones have healthy, happy fish which will soon be at home in your aquarium. It is important to observe the fish before buying to check for any signs of sickness or injury. There are a number of indicators about their behaviour and appearance that will let you know their state of health. Eyes should be bright and active, rather than seeming small or filmed over. Make sure the fish can feed itself and there are no fungal or bacterial infections in the soft tissues around the mouth. Check to see if the abdomen is ‘fat’ which means the fish is feeding well; a fish with a sunken abdomen is not likely to live too long. Scales should be smooth and even while missing scales and discoloured patches are signs of infection. Also note that the fish’s gills are moving regularly and not spasmodically. There should not be any tears or raggedness on the fins, the presence of which would indicate fighting with other fish or improper aquarium filtration.
Acclimatizing Your Fish
Bringing your fish from the pet shop to its new home is just as stressful for fish as adults moving house! There are, however, ways to ease this stress and to slowly introduce the fish to its new environment. Wrap the plastic bag the pet shop places your fish in, in a paper bag, and hold as still as possible for the journey home. If the journey is long, open the bag every thirty minutes to let fresh air in. When you arrive home, empty the contents of the plastic bag into a clean bucket. Ensure the environment in your aquarium is at its optimum for the health of your fish. Add a cup of water from your tank every 5 minutes. Repeat this until the water volume in the bucket has doubled. Empty half the volume and then repeat until the water volume is doubled again. This process should take around thirty minutes. Your fish should now be properly acclimatized to your tank water. This ensures that fish are not shocked when introduced into different tank aquariums.
Adding Your Fish
Now it is time to introduce them to your aquarium. Turn off the aquarium lights and leave them off for 3-4 hours after the fish are introduced to reduce stress as the fish adjust to the new setting. Use a net that is much larger than the fish to catch it in the bucket. Carefully place the net in the tank water and let the fish swim out. Repeat for each of your fish. Do not put any water from the bucket into your aquarium as part of it has come from the fish store and may contain disease or other unhealthy chemical levels, which you do not want to introduce into other fish tank aquariums. Instead fill your aquarium up with new water. If there are already other fish in your aquarium place the new fish in a separate aquarium for several days and observe for disease. Don’t add more than four fish at a time as this can cause a chemical imbalance in your tank. This is a much more effective method than the old way of floating pet shop’s plastic bags in tank aquariums as this does nothing to acclimatize fish to the various water parameters of different fish tanks.
A Little at a Time
You will then need to wait around another month before adding more fish. The reason for this is that it takes the fish a while to get used to their new environment and the more fish there are, the higher their stress levels. Plus there is an incubation time with diseases and you need to ensure the fish are healthy before contaminating others. Another reason is that the tank aquarium’s ecosystem also needs to adjust to its new inhabitants and the increased waste they produce. Continue to monitor the temperature, pH, ammonia and nitrate levels throughout this period.
Moving Tank is Stressful!
For the success of your fish tank aquariums please ensure you follow this incredibly important process of acclimatization. Without it, fish that you introduce will become severely stressed, thereby weakening their immune system and making them susceptible to illness and even death. It is largely fish that make tank aquariums beautiful and exciting so they deserve to be looked after. This ensures your lasting enjoyment!