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GENERAL FISH KEEPING

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Aiming to share information and experience in fish keeping.

PAGE 1

THIS PAGE IS DESIGNED FOR ADULTS AND CHILDREN UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION

    A tank of Mollies with Java Fern and Java Moss

NAVIGATION GUIDE FOR THIS PAGE

 

Introduction: four rules of aquarium keeping

Tank Size Counts: selecting the right tank size

Going Tropical of Temperate?

Tropical Tanks

Temperate or "Cold Water" Tanks

 

LINKS WITHIN THIS SITE

 

Page 2: Community Tanks, Filtration, Aeration etc.

 

Page 3: Plants, Lighting, Stocking, etc.

 

Aquarium Lighting

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer

IF YOU ARE UNDER 15 YEARS OF AGE PLEASE HAVE AN ADULT ASSIST YOU IN READING AND APPLYING THIS.

FISH KEEPING 
AN ADVENTURE INTO AQUACULTURE SA STYLE 

This is an exercise in information sharing and promotion of keeping freshwater fishes in home aquaria. I hope that my experiences help you enjoy your aquaculture adventures. The notes are given as general notes for keeping fish and apply to temperate water and to tropical fish, with differences pointed out where necessary. The same principles apply for all fishes: ensure that you have the correct tank size, maintain the correct water conditions, provide suitable filtration, provide appropriate habitat and decoration, and, of course, maintain a proper feeding schedule.

Four rules apply:
know the limitations of your tank: aquarium size and water volume determines what habitat and how many fish can be maintained;
know your fish: each species has its own needs in terms of water conditions, habitat, lighting and diet;
know the water conditions: the water conditions in your tank will determine the health of the fish.
Known a suitable feeding AND aquarium maintenance routine and follow it.

Each fish species has its own requirements in terms of water conditions and habitat. Aquaria can only approximate those natural conditions.

It is essential to understand some aspects of the water chemistry involved in keeping fish, with special attention being paid to pH and water hardness. The aim is to have the water at the right temperature, with correct pH, water hardness and oxygen levels, while maintaining the water free of ammonia/ammonium (NH3/NH4) and nitrite (NO2). Nitrate (NO3) levels must also be low.


TANK SIZE AND PLACEMENT COUNTS

Choose a 55 LITRE size tank, at least. Small tanks and bowls are more difficult to maintain than the standard 55 litre or 100 litre tank so choose the largest tank that you can afford. Having a suitable placement or location for it is also important and that may determine the size that you choose. For beginners, I recommend a tank 60 cms long, 30 cms wide and 35 cms high (deep) that will hold 55 litres of water and weigh about 65 - 70 kgs when set up with rocks, gravel and water. A tank 75cms long, 30 cms wide and 45 cms deep is much better if larger fish (such as dwarf cichlids) are to be kept. Such a tank will hold 105 litres of water when full and weigh over 120 kgs when set up with rocks, gravel and water. Size matters and what matters most is the surface area at the top of the tank through which gases from the air and gases dissolved in the water can be exchanged. While the effective surface area can be enhanced with aeration, an adequate surface area at the top of the tank is a basic requirement. The recommended 60 cms x 30 cms or 75 cms x 30 cm is an ideal surface area for a first tank. Depth is not as critical but you need to have a depth that allows your arm to reach the bottom of the tank for cleaning and maintenance. Depths of 35 to 45 cms suit most needs.

Place the tank on a safe, firm, level foundation (not on a table that rocks or vibrates) and well away from heaters, fires, radiators, air conditioners and direct sunlight. Choose a well lit place, not in direct sunlight and away from constant floor traffic, noise or frequent movement. Have the base of the tank at least 60 cms above the floor- fish can be frightened when big creatures loom above them. Some retailers supply a flat, polystyrene base-sheet to place the tank upon, to act as a cushion to level out irregularities in the surface upon which the tank will sit. Using such a sheet as a base plate is advisable, for an irregular surface may cause a glass tank to crack when loaded with water, rocks, sand and fish. Some aquaria come ready made, with inbuilt support and a base that is designed to avoid cracking.  Modern acrylic tanks are a bit more resilient but can be scratched when gleaning, so I still think that glass tanks are a best "first option".

Make sure that the tank has a properly supported and has a close fitting glass or acrylic cover plate with some corners cut to allow entry points for filters and heater cables. Some fish are good jumpers so cover plates are essential to protect them. Open-topped aquaria are chosen usually if plants are to be grown under special lighting or if marine tanks (without  fish that jump) are being used. An open topped aquarium looks good with correct lighting but limits the type of fish that can be kept safely, as some species are excellent jumpers and end up on the floor.

The modern, self-contained tanks, with built-in filters, heaters, hoods and lights, are also good first-tanks for beginners if not too small a tank is chosen.

 
DECIDE ON WHETHER TROPICAL OR 'COLD WATER' FISHES ARE TO BE KEPT.
Tropical fishes are not more difficult to keep than cold water species such as goldfish. In fact, some tropical fish are easier to care for than some  goldfish. If tropical fishes are to be kept, then an aquarium heater (with a thermostat built in) is essential. Heaters are also useful if fancy goldfish are to be kept in rooms that experience wide ranges of temperature variation.

Set the heater for an average temperature of 22o Celsius to 24o Celsius for a tropical, community tank (i.e. one in which a mixture of fishes from different geographies, ecologies, biotypes or habitats are kept. For example, Neon Tetras from the Amazon may be kept with Dwarf Gouramies from Asia or Neon Rainbowfish from New Guinea.).

Some cold water fishes also benefit from a controlled heating to avoid extremes.  Set the thermostat at 18 - 20o Celsius if fancy goldfish, River Murray Rainbows or Danios are to be kept.

Suitable fishes for cold water (which means water with a temperature between 15 to 20o Celsius for optimum results) include goldfish, Zebra Danios, River Murray Rainbowfish, Guppies, Rosy Barbs and Black Tetra (if they are acclimatised).

FISHES FROM DIFFERENT HABITATS REQUIRE DIFFERENT WATER CONDITIONS so choose your fish types ahead of purchasing them. 

CONDITIONS FOR KEEPING A TROPICAL COMMUNITY TANK

  • amble room- a 55 litre tank that is 30 cms deep is OK for a small, community tank.
  • a warm temperature- between 22o and 24o Celsius for general keeping.
  • adequate lighting provided by 1 x 55cm 24 watt fluorescent "Life Glo" 6700 T5 HO tube is recommended for a planted aquarium, or 1 x 55 cm 24 watt "Power Glo" 18000 T5 HO provides good lighting in unplanted aquaria with 'rock pile' biotype. Use a double lighting unit if the tank is well planted, using 2 x 55cm 24 watt fluorescent "Life Glo" 6700 T5 HO tubes or 2 x 55 cm 24 watt "Power Glo" 18000 T5 HO tubes.
  • clean, fresh water is essential, with NO chlorine or chloramines present and with the correct water conditions for the types of fish that you wish to keep. Some fishes (e.g. Amazon River fishes such as Neon Tetras and other tetras) require soft to medium hard water and others need very hard water (e.g. Lake Malawi cichlids). For general keeping, tap water is OK if used with dechloraminating drops; Don't use rain water, as it may be contaminated with industrial fallout or poisons from agricultural spray drift.
  • excellent filtration and/or frequent partial water changes a powered, under gravel, biological filter, or a small powered filter works well.  Simple air-lift box filters work well for beginners, also, so ask your dealer about filters.  Buy the best that you can afford.  Filters that combine particle filtration with biological filtration are best choice.
  • Very mild water movement at the surface is required which is usually provided by the action of the filter and perhaps some gentle aeration to assist gaseous exchange and to prevent temperature layering in the tank.  Surface movement and aeration help with gaseous exchange at the surface and keep the water rich in oxygen while helping to remove excess carbon dioxide.
  • the substrate- the material that you place on the floor of the tank- is important. Unless you wish to grow plants in a "Dutch Style Aquarium (plants only) an simple layer of coarse inert, sand or fine, inert gravel will suffice.  A well planted aquarium requires a nutrient rich substrate in which organic matter and iron-rich clays have been mixed.  A coarse sand or fine gravel mix needs to be 1.5 to 2 cms deep at the front of the tank, sloping to 4 cms deep at the back.  The darker the colour the better, as it will reflect less light into the fish's eyes.  Remember, sand or gravel must not be so fine as to compact easily or so coarse that uneaten food particles get trapped.  It should not be too compacted for it needs to allow water and nutrients to circulate through it.  It must be inert as well, so do not use crushed bricks, marble, limestone, shell-grit, dolomite, beach sand or highly mineralised rocks.  Quartz sands and gravels are best, but tumbled, crushed granite or basalt is also excellent IF IT HAS BEEN WATER WORN so that the particles are not sharp.  Most stockists keep suitable sands and gravels but be careful, as not all do. Material that originates in a creek bed or lake must be obtained with considerable thought given to conservation, please. 
  • rocks or mangrove roots add to the plant decor and are part of the substrate. Some fish need shelter and rocky hides and cover is essential.  Place these rock on the substrate (not buried in it) and arranged so as NOT TO FALL. Again, suitable rocks must be chemically inert, so choose quartzite and/or sandstone and NOT limestone or rocks that will alter water chemistry. One exception is with the biotype set up for African Rift Valley cichlids, in which dolomite rock and dark marble is suitable for use in the very hard water needed for those fishes. Coral sand is used only in marine aquaria.
  • plants can be planted in the substrate- placing tall varieties at the back of the tank.  Some plants such as Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) and Dwarf Anubias (Anubias barteri nana) are grown tied onto the wood or rock decor and are not planted in the substrate. Both make good plants for beginners and suit low light levels as provided by fluorescent tubes.

    Keeping fish is more about keeping an efficient biological filter working and maintaining good water quality than keeping the fish (they usually look after themselves if the water and food are right).

CONDITIONS FOR KEEPING A TEMPERATE COMMUNITY TANK

  • amble room- a 55 litre tank that is 30 cms deep is OK for a small, community tank.

  • a temperature- between 18o and 20o Celsius for general keeping of temperate water species (usually called "cold water" species but this is a very misleading term as most of the fishes that we keep as "cold water species" are from temperate climates and do best with a water temperature ranging from 18o to 20oC.  Cold usually means that a heater is not used, however, in cold climates, temperate water species are kept in aquaria that are heated but not to the range given for tropical fish.

  • 1 x 55cm 24 watt fluorescent "Life Glo" 6700 T5 HO tube is recommended for a planted aquarium, or 1 x 55 cm 24 watt "Power Glo" 18000 T5 HO provides good lighting in unplanted aquaria with 'rock pile' biotype.  Depending upon the plants grown, more intense lighting may be needed.
  • clean, fresh water is essential, with NO chlorine or chloramines present and with the correct water conditions for the types of fish that you wish to keep. For general keeping, tap water is OK if used with dechloraminating drops; Don't use rain water, as it may be contaminated with industrial fallout or poisons from agricultural spray drift.
  • excellent filtration and/or frequent partial water changes a powered, under gravel, biological filter, or a small powered filter works well. Simple air-lift box filters work well for beginners, also, so ask your dealer about filters. Buy the best that you can afford. Filters that combine particle filtration with biological filtration are best choice.  Filters also provide very mild water movement at the surface and some gentle aeration to assist gaseous exchange and to prevent temperature layering in the tank. Surface movement and aeration help with gaseous exchange at the surface and keep the water rich in oxygen while helping to remove excess carbon dioxide.
  • the substrate- the material that you place on the floor of the tank- is important. Unless you wish to grow plants in a "Dutch Style Aquarium (plants only) an simple layer of coarse inert, sand or fine, inert gravel will suffice.  A well planted aquarium requires a nutrient rich substrate in which organic matter and iron-rich clays have been mixed.  A coarse sand or fine gravel mix needs to be 1.5 to 2 cms deep at the front of the tank, sloping to 4 cms deep at the back. The darker the colour the better, as it will reflect less light into the fish's eyes.  Remember, sand or gravel must not be so fine as to compact easily or so coarse that uneaten food particles get trapped.  It should not be too compacted for it needs to allow water and nutrients to circulate through it.  It must be inert as well, so do not use crushed bricks, marble, limestone, shell-grit, dolomite, beach sand or highly mineralised rocks. Quartz sands and gravels are best, but tumbled, crushed granite or basalt is also excellent IF IT HAS BEEN WATER WORN so that the particles are not sharp.  Most stockists keep suitable sands and gravels but be careful, as not all do. Material that originates in a creek bed or lake must be obtained with considerable thought given to conservation, please.
  • rocks or mangrove roots add to the decor. Some fish need shelter and rocky hides and cover is essential.  Place these rock on the substrate (not buried in it) and arranged so as NOT TO FALL. Again, suitable rocks must be chemically inert, so choose quartzite and/or sandstone and NOT limestone or rocks that will alter water chemistry. Coral sand is used only in marine aquaria.

  • plants can be planted in the substrate- placing tall varieties at the back of the tank. Select plant species for temperate water. Plants.

Keeping fish is more about keeping an efficient biological filter working and maintaining good water quality than keeping the fish (they usually look after themselves if the water and food are right).

FOR HOW TO SET UP A COMMUNITY AQUARIUM- go to Page 2

  • GO TO PAGE 2 GO TO PART 3: plants, lights and stock Aquarium Lighting
    Setting up for Discus Setting up for keeping Siamese Fighters (Bettas) Setting up for keeping Lemon Cichlids
     
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