Beginners Guide to Successful Fishkeeping

Aquarium Guides: What aquarium beginners need to know when starting an aquarium 

Your Window to Another World

Welcome to the world, the art, the experience of fish keeping.

Each year, thousands of new fish keepers discover the natural wonder of aquariums. Fish keeping provides them, and now you, have the unique opportunity to not only observe another world, but to create it as well. In the process, you’ll learn about aquatic creatures and observe their behavior firsthand. And there is nothing quite like an aquarium to generate an appreciation and respect for our environment.

Fun, easy and instructive, an aquarium is a singularly beautiful, always fascinating addition to any home or office … a welcome source of entertainment, education and relaxation for the entire family.

Fish As Pets

Think of your fish as pets and you’ll agree, they deserve the best care and attention you can provide. They rely on you to keep their environment healthy. A healthy aquarium is relatively easy to achieve and maintain, but it will not happen by itself. It depends on you.

In rivers, lakes and oceans, water is cleansed and filtered naturally. In an aquarium, it’s a different story. In order to keep aquarium water clean and healthy, you must help. This means taking care not to overcrowd the tank or overfeed the fish. It means changing some of the water regularly, cleaning the gravel bed and providing the proper filtration.

Sound like a lot? It’s really not. In fact, it only takes about 30 minutes a week.

In addition to your aquarium, filter and lighting, here’s a list of what you need to get started:

  • Gravel: Coated or pre washed is ideal.

  • Decorations: Only those designated for aquariums (e.g., live or artificial plants and ornaments).

  • Water Conditioner: De chlorinates tap water to make it fish-safe.

  • Net: For transferring fish.

  • Gravel Washer: For water changes and cleaning.

  • Fish Food: Consult your dealer for a recommendation.

Setting Up Your Aquarium

Handle With Care
Never attempt to move a full or partially full aquarium.
Never lift an aquarium with wet hands.
Never attempt to lift aquarium by grasping upper edges or frame.
Always grasp and carry an aquarium from underneath, supporting the bottom at all times.

Preparing Your Tank
Using a damp cloth, clean your tank inside and out prior to setup.
Never use soap, detergents or cleaning agents.

Choosing A Location
Always place an aquarium in a location designed to support its total weight.
An aquarium filled with water and gravel weighs approximately 10 to 12 pounds per gallon.
Always place an aquarium on a flat, level surface and make sure an electrical outlet is near.
Never place an aquarium near a heat source or air conditioner.
Never place an aquarium in direct sunlight. Full or even partial sunlight can cause excessive algae growth.

Adding Gravel
Add 1.5 to 2 pounds of gravel for every gallon of aquarium water. Be sure to rinse the gravel thoroughly (water should drain clear) before adding. The gravel bed should slope gradually to the front of your aquarium.

Filling Your Aquarium
Pouring a stream of water directly into your tank will disturb the gravel bed. We recommend that before adding water, you place a clean dish on top of gravel and gradually pour the water over the dish. The stream is gently deflected without displacing gravel.

Always fill your aquarium with water at room temperature. Cool water produces condensation, which gives the appearance of leakage. If condensation does occur, simply wipe surface with a clean cloth until temperature stabilizes.

Always treat water with a dechlorinator before adding it to your aquarium. Do not add plain, untreated tap water — it can kill your fish.

A Word About Decor
Once the aquarium is half full, you can add aquatic plants (live or artificial) and/or decorative rocks or ornaments. Before adding any of these items, be sure to rinse them thoroughly. When placing plants, it’s a good idea to locate larger ones to the rear of the tank, smaller ones toward the front. This ensures an open swimming area for your fish. When all ornaments and plants are in place, continue filling the aquarium to within an inch of the top rim.

Total Three-Stage Filtration

 A healthy, successful aquarium requires the proper filtration. Three stages are necessary.

Mechanical Filtration traps solid debris such as uneaten food and fish waste. Filter cartridges are an ideal source of both mechanical and chemical filtration.

Chemical Filtration uses media (activated carbon) to adsorb (attract and hold) dissolved pollutants that can cause water discoloration and odor.For mechanical filtration, there’s a poly fiber pad to trap dirt and debris. For chemical filtration, each cartridge is packed with premium activated carbon.

Biological Filtration is the third type of filtration. It depends on a culture of beneficial oxygen-loving bacteria to eliminate toxic ammonia and nitrite that accumulate in aquarium water. The bacteria culture biologically changes the ammonia and nitrite into nitrate, which is removed with once-a-month partial water changes. Beneficial bacteria will grow naturally on many surfaces within the aquarium (including gravel, decorative rock and plastic plants) and will provide biological filtration.

If your system features Marineland’s patented BIO-Wheel® technology, a culture of bacteria will grow on its surface. The bacteria will thrive — because as the BIO-Wheel rotates, they are nourished by exposure to the larger amount of oxygen in the air. This is “wet/dry” biological filtration.

Heat, Light, Electrical

A heater may be used to maintain water temperature in your aquarium. Most tropical fish require a constant water temperature between 75° and 80° F. Goldfish and certain other cold water species are the exception to the rule. They can exist quite comfortably without a heater.

Lighting brings out the natural colors of your fish and is essential for live plant growth. There are many different types of aquarium light fixtures available. Your dealer can help you select the appropriate light fixture for your individual needs. An aquarium hood or cover is always a good idea because it helps keep fish in and airborne pollutants out.

Important Note: To avoid excessive algae growth, limit the lighting of your aquarium to 7 to 10 hours per day. It’s relatively easy to plug your lighting fixture into a standard timer.

Before plugging in your heater, hood or any other electrical equipment, take special care to read all written safety precautions in your owner’s manual(s) and be sure to use a drip loop. Use a GFCI-protected outlet whenever possible.

Before You Add Fish…

When creating a new aquarium environment, patience is vital to success. Allow your system to operate for at least 24 hours before adding fish.

Begin by talking with your dealer about what fish are best suited to your aquarium, what fish are compatible with one another and how many would be appropriate.

When You Add Fish…

Add only a few recommended fish at first, gradually introducing more over the next four to six weeks. Choose only fish that appear active and healthy. And take special care not to overcrowd your aquarium. Fewer, healthier fish are better than an over abundance of stressed-out fish.

Make sure the water your fish enter is approximately the same temperature as the water from which they leave. To equalize the two temperatures, float the transport container (usually a plastic bag) in the tank for about 15 minutes. Then, at five minute intervals, open the bag and add a small amount of aquarium water. Finally, after 15 minutes, gently net the fish and place it in the aquarium. Do not add bag water to the aquarium. Let the fish swim from the net into the tank. The less traumatic the transport, the better.

Feed your fish twice a day — only what they will eat in about five minutes.

Taking Care of Your New Aquatic Environment

A properly maintained aquarium filter means cleaner water and healthier fish.

You will need to replace your filter cartridge and perform a 25 percent water change every two to four weeks. You also need to vacuum the gravel thoroughly to remove any waste buildup. The easiest and most effective way to accomplish both a water change and a gravel cleaning is with a standard, siphon-operated gravel vacuum.

Water that appears cloudy, yellowish or smells bad is telling you that your aquarium water needs changing and a new filter cartridge immediately. If the problem persists, it may be because you have too many fish — or because you’re overfeeding them. Bring a sample of your water to your dealer for testing.

When replacing water in an aquarium, be sure to treat it first. Most tap water contains chlorine or chloramines, and adding untreated tap water to your tank could seriously harm your fish. Be sure to check with your dealer for the water dechlorinator that works best with your local tap water.

Always replace old water with new water of approximately the same temperature to avoid shocking your fish.

Set aside an assortment of buckets, sponges and towels to be used only with your aquarium. This will help prevent the introduction of harmful pollutants into the system.

And always unplug electrical equipment before performing aquarium maintenance of any kind.