Friday, June 19, 2015

Tropical Fish Aquarium

In March of this year, I decided to start up a tropical fish aquarium. Tropical fish definitely require more maintenance than your typical gold fish or beta, but then again these fish are more likely to live for several years and they are a beautiful addition to your home. 

Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how I set up my tropical fish aquarium!

Step One

Research what fish you want and other tropical animals you want in your aquarium. Establish how to maintain them, how big they will be full grown (as this will affect what size of tank you need to get), if they need to school (be in groups of 3 or more), if they do well in communities or not and how much they will cost you. 

Once you've researched your fish, DON'T BUY THEM. Why, you ask? With tropical fish, they are very sensitive to environment changes, especially when it comes to temperature and bacteria. You'll need to give your aquarium between 24-48 hours after set up to filter and heat up properly before you introduce your fish to their new home

Step Two

Buy your equipment.

You will need:
  • A tank with lid- these range in sizes. Typically you will need one gallon of water per inch of fish you intend to have, so remember to get an idea of how many fish you want and how big they will be full sized.
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Lights
  • A filtering system- this needs to be compatible with the size of your tank. I was lazy and bought a this tank set that came with a lid, filtration system, lights and heater.
  • Filters
  • Gravel
  • Nylon net- for removing fish will cleaning.
  • Cleaning tools- these consist of scrapers, sponges and a gravel vacuum.
  • Dechlorinator and bacteria
  • Decor- make sure the edges aren't super sharp to prevent injury to your fish and that you have enough places for them to hide, but not so much that you crowd the tank.

Step Three

Choose where you will set up your tank. I have mine in our dining room on the side of the window because: one) there is no direct sunlight, which is important for your fish's health, two) my room is in the basement and it is freezing, so that wasn't going to work, and three) we had an outlet in the perfect location for the filter, lights and heater. 

Obviously, you're not going to put your tank on the ground (especially if you have a "too smart for her own good" cat like I do), so you'll need to buy or find a table, dresser or shelf that is big, stable and sturdy enough to hold your tank. My tank is 10 gallons and weighs around 100 lbs., so I ended up using a dresser about 2.5-3 feet tall that was just wide enough for the tank, but thin enough that my cat can't jump up next to the tank. Since the dresser is wood, I covered it with an old table cloth to protect it from any drips while doing maintenance. 

Step Four

Set up your tank. If you get a starter tank set like I did, it will probably come with some instructions, but if not here is how I set mine up. 

First, clean the tank. Now to clean the materials you'll be using for your fish, it's important to NOT use any soap. Just use cold water and perhaps a rag to try and remove any residue from manufacturing or boxing. While you're doing this, you may as well rinse off all of the decor that you bought so it's ready for assembly.

Next, you'll need  to clean the gravel. Again, NO SOAP. Get a colander with holes small enough that the gravel won't fall into your drain and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. You'll want rotate the gravel and rinse long enough for the water to run clear. 

Once your gravel is clean, spread it over the bottom of your tank. This doesn't have to be perfectly even. In fact, as I did research before setting up I read several tips that recommended making the gravel higher toward the back of the tank than at the front to prevent tipping.

Here comes the fun part. After distributing your gravel in the tank, fill the tank with room temperature water about 1/3 of the way up, then add your decor, filtration system, heater and thermometer. Having the tank filled about 1/3 of the way up will help the decor to stay put when you put the rest of the water in without you having to submerge your entire arm into a tank of water.
This is what the heater looks like.
*Make sure the water you use is room temperature for this because if it's too cold or too hot it will create condensation on the outside of the tank which could potentially be damaging to whatever stand you are using and it just looks ugly when it dries.

At this point, fill the tank up to 1.5-2 inches below the top. Since i have a little rock cave for my fish, I poured the water over this so it didn't displace the gravel, but if you only have plants, you can place a bowl in the tank and then fill it up and this will also prevent the gravel from moving around.

Before you turn on your filter, make sure to run the actual filter packet until cool water. Most filters use carbon and if you don't rinse it first, small particles of the carbon can actually get into the tank and potentially be swallowed/breathed in by your fish. You will also want to add your dechlorinator (the container will advise you how much to add per gallon) and then begin filtering for about 15 minute. After 15 minutes, add your bacteria and then continue to filter for a 24-48 hours.

 Step Five

Buy your fish and add them to their new home! Adding fish to the aquarium is pretty easy. When you buy them from the store, they will probably be put in a bag. Once home, set the bag of water and fish in the tank and let it be for around 15-20 minutes. This is important because it helps the fish to become acquainted with the temperature of your tank slowly so they don't receive a shock. After you've let the bag sit long enough, open it and use your net to gently scoop your fish into the tank and you're done! 

Happy Fishing!

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