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5 Important Things for Beginner Aquarists to Know
Today I wanted to write about what I wish I knew when I wanted to become an aquarium enthusiast. This applies to both saltwater and freshwater aquariums.
1. Take your entry into the hobby as slowly as possible. Don’t be afraid to dive in, but do as much research as you can using books, the internet, and other reputable hobbyists. Be extra careful to only take advice from trusted people, which are also aligned with literature or websites that others agree with. You must also decide what direction you want to take the tank, but make sure it is before you start buying equipment. Do you want a reef tank? A predator tank? A freshwater cichlid tank? There are tons of options to bring joy to your home. Once you’ve done your research, you can set up an aquarium!
2. Learn about the cycle of nitrifying bacteria. People who completely remove all water from fish tanks with clean filters and tap water are doing the exact opposite of what they are supposed to do. This applies not only to salt water, but also to fresh water. As waste is added to an aquarium, it is called ammonia. It can be added to the use of fish food, but it is also eliminated from the fish themselves. As ammonia builds up, without good bacteria converting that ammonia to nitrite, it quickly becomes toxic and is the number one killer of fish. Once the aquarium’s beneficial bacteria form naturally, it then turns the nitrites into nitrates. While nitrites are less toxic, they remove oxygen from the water. Therefore they also need to be converted naturally into nitrates. Nitrates are the least dangerous and can only be bad for fish in large quantities. By removing only 25% of the aquarium water and replacing it with clean, dechlorinated water, you do not shock the fish or beneficial bacteria. This bacteria can take 4-6 weeks to form if not seeded in another tank and this ‘nitrifying cycle’ can be very hard on your fish. Delicate fish will not survive. Bacteria live throughout your aquarium. This can be in gravel, sand, filters, and water column.
3. Test your water. The test strips are cheap and easy to use, to look for high levels of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. The remedy or these situations is simply feed less, remove some fish if the tank is more than a couple of months old and the levels are still high, or do partial water changes. I recommend to all my clients that they change 25-35% of their water every 2 weeks. This will dilute the nitrates down in the water by removing them. It is not a necessity, but it is a great prevention in keeping fish healthy. If bad water doesn’t outright kill a fish, it weakens their immune system and this is where disease can kill the fish.
4. Control your food. Most people I have come in contact with in the aquarium maintenance industry follow the instructions on fish food containers and majorly overfeed the fish which leads to deadly water and tank accidents. Give a small pinch of food every day except for one day of the week when there is no food. Let the fish eat all this food in 30 seconds without it entering the filter, and if the fish appears thin slowly increase the amount of food. In this way the beneficial bacteria can multiply to compensate.
5. Research everything before you buy it. I can’t count the number of tank accidents with big humpback fish because the buyer didn’t do any research. Find out if your tank can create an ethical and healthy environment for your fish or coral, such as having enough room for them to grow to their specific healthy size. You and your animals will be happier and less stressed with enough space and filtration.
Thank you for taking the time to prepare my article. I have been in the aquarium industry for more than 6 years and it is now my main profession and hobby. I believe with these five things, you are on your way to success!
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