If you have decided to keep tropical fish, you are probably already aware that there is a vast array of both fish and products for their care available to you. You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the choices, but don’t worry. There are some questions that you need to ask yourself about what you want out of your tank, and what you are prepared to invest in (in money, time and space).
But having done this, you will be able to make your selection with a light heart and clear head. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you begin shopping in earnest:
What size and shape of tank do I want?
The number and type of fish you select will depend to a great extent on the size of tank you can accommodate. While modern filtration and aeration systems mean that good water quality can be maintained for numbers of fish, oxygen requirements, territorial issues and health concerns still limit the sort and amount of fish you can keep in a given space. Any reputable retailer will be able to give advice on the types of fish that will suit the size of tank you choose. Certain types of fish also thrive in different types of tank. For example, tetras swim in schools, and require space for wide turns, while bottom feeders prefer deep tanks with plenty of hiding places.
How many fish do I want in my tank?
Remember that, while some species prefer safety in numbers, too many fish in a tank is more likely to be lethal than too few. You can always add extra specimens later if your tank thrives. Additionally, more fish in a tank produce more waste, which is harder for the filters to remove and more likely to sour the water. Don’t feel like you have to fill your tank to its rated level if you can achieve the effect you want with fewer fish. A minimalist approach is often better.
What types of fish do I want?
A mix of fish that use different levels of the tank is often visually attractive, but while most fish that are sold to pet owners may be mixed in a tank, consideration needs to be given to what you are putting together. You will, no doubt, never be sold two angelfish for one tank, as they are notorious for fighting, but it is worth being aware that they may also molest fish of other species. Barbs are similarly aggressive, and need careful control. Obviously, you will also need to consider any issues of water pH, temperature and water flow compatibility in your tank before putting a group together.
How big will my chosen fish grow?
Remember that most fish as sold are not at their full size. Many types of fish are roughly the same size when young, but can vary wildly in adult proportions. Angelfish, for example, are often sold when less than five centimetres long, but can grow to be about eleven centimetres – a huge difference when considering tank volume. Tetras and guppies are popular fish for home aquariums because they are generally smaller, and hence there is not so much concern over their final size.
Spend some time considering your choices, and seek advice from your chosen supplier regarding specific species that you would like to include. Buying your fish in a sensibly mixed group of controlled size, chosen to fit the environment of the tank you prefer, is likely to give you hours of pleasure in return for your efforts.
About the author: Percy Jackson has been involved in the pet business for much of his working life and his knowledge is extensive. He shares lots of his pet care advice on Percy’s Pets and tropical fish are just one of the areas he covers so if you need help with your pet then check out his site.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Judith Baker Montano.