Facts & Tips on Taking Care of Aquarium Fish

Most fish cannot surive long in bowls.
Most fish cannot surive long in bowls. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

A lot goes into setting up an aquarium. You have to decide on fish, the tank, and equipment, accessories and supplements to keep fish healthy and happy. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Follow manufacturer's instructions and you'll find it easier than it looks.

Picking the Fish

Select your fish carefully. One method is to go to a pet shop, write down the names of fish you find interesting, then go home and research them. Take into account things like water chemistry, aggression and size. Many fish require specialized water chemistry and may require more work to keep healthy. Other fish are notorious for attacking other fish in the same tank. Make sure you know how big a fish will get. Some fish are marketed at a small size only to grow to several feet. Make sure you know what you're getting into. Don't purchase your fish until your tank is set up and running.

Selecting an Aquarium

Get the largest tank you can reasonably afford. Larger tanks are more forgiving of a beginner's mistakes. For example, if you're overfeeding, the excess ammonia produced is more diluted in a larger tank. Consider the material as well. Acrylic is light and comes in a variety of shapes. But glass is cheaper and harder to scratch. Take into account the dimensions of the aquarium. A short, wider tank is more accommodating for fish than a tall tank since it has a greater surface area to volume ratio.

Pick Your Filters

Filter choices abound. Box filters and sponge filters are cheap but take up space in the aquarium; they serve most often in breeding and quarantine tanks, those serving secondary purposes where appearance doesn't matter. Box filters, also called hang-on filters, cost more, but don't take up space in the tank. Canister filters take this a step further. You can house them completely out of sight, other than their intake and outflow tubes, and they provide powerful filtration. They are among the most expensive filters.

Picking Your Location

Place an aquarium away from direct sunlight and make sure an electrical outlet is nearby. Think twice about having very large tanks on upper floors. Water is very heavy. On higher floors, position an aquarium against outside or load-bearing walls, since the floor is strongest at these points. Avoid places that make it hard to reach into the tank for maintenance.


Set up your tank before purchasing any fish. Assemble and install any filters per the manufacturer's instructions. Let the tank run, full of water, for about 48 hours before introducing fish, to make sure the equipment works and nothing leaks. Use water conditioner, available at pet shops, to remove chlorine. If you selected fish with specific water requirements, test to make sure you've achieved the desired conditions and supplement as needed with additional specialized water conditioners. Add just a few fish at a time over the course of weeks. A pet shop representative can help guide you on how many fish you can add and how fast you can add them.

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