Aquarium Basics

Home & Family, Pets
on November 4, 2011

According to, there are about 24 million pet fish in the United States, making fish the third largest pet population after dogs and cats. Fish require their own special home in the form of an aquarium. Whether it is freshwater or saltwater, an aquarium begins with the same three items: the aquarium, the lighting system and the filtration system. Here are some things to know before setting up a home aquarium.

Size. A beginner’s mistake is to select too small an aquarium with the intention of upgrading to a larger size later. It is important to note that fish need space if they are going to thrive. The general rule is that a 10-gallon tank can accommodate 10 1-inch fish or five 2-inch fish. This rule applies only to fish up to 3 inches in length. Overcrowding your fish can kill them. Never buy fish the same day you purchase the aquarium and supplies. It will take several days to get your tank ready to be a safe and healthy home for your fish.

Support. Aquarium stands must be sturdy. Opt for one that is level and strong and does not wobble. A wrought iron or wooden stand designed specifically for aquariums is usually best for tanks 10 gallons or larger. A cabinet version with storage area in the base will also work and offers space to store supplies. Be sure your aquarium’s location is away from direct sunlight, as this can cause algae to build up in the tank.

Lighting system. Living things need light. This includes fish and any living plants you may add to the aquarium. A full hood can be purchased to fit most aquariums. This piece has dual functionality. Not only will it keep fish from jumping out (or kitties from pawing the fish), but it also will feature a light built in. Opt for a fluorescent bulb because it uses less energy, is brighter, lasts longer and does not produce too much heat. A saltwater tank with corals may need combination lighting.

Filtration system. To keep a healthy tank, change 20 percent of your water every week. The water changes in combination with a proper filtration system can be key to maintaining healthy fish. The aquarium filter will trap waste, but it also allows the water to pass through and circulate. Filter styles vary and include under-gravel filters, canister filters and power filters. A pH test will need to be performed after the filter has run for a few hours.

Equally important basics. A heater and thermometer are additional aquarium basics that cannot be overlooked. Changes in water temperature can stress fish and create problems in your tank. A saltwater aquarium needs to be kept between 75 and 79 degrees. Gravel, a gravel vacuum, an algae scrubber, fish food, a fish net, plants and decorations are other basics for an aquarium. Don’t forget a fish-only bucket for when it is time to clean the aquarium.

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