How To Care for Tropical Fish

Once you have your aquarium set up and have started adding fish, there are a number of routine steps required to keep things healthy and looking good. It is very helpful to keep a logbook to ensure that all steps are completed at the desired intervals.

  1. Feed fish lightly on a daily basis. All food should be eaten within a few minutes. Remove uneaten food to prevent it from rotting and compromising the water quality.

  • Monitor the growth of your fish to avoid a condition of overcrowding. Overcrowding the tank will lead to stressed fish and inadequate water quality. There is a rule of thumb that one inch of fish per gallon of water is the maximum capacity for an aquarium. This is only a guide as the bulk of the fish is as important as its overall length. Additionally, a lightly stocked aquarium can be more forgiving than one stocked to maximum capacity.
  • Log the water temperature. This should be done every day for a new aquarium. After you are certain the water temperature is relatively stable, continue checking once a week or after a major environmental change, such as the beginning of summer when you start using the air conditioner to cool your home.
  • Adjust the timer for the lights to ensure regular periods of light and dark. Spring forward and fall back changes for daylight savings time are not the only times you will need to adjust your timer. Every time there is a power outage your timer will need to be adjusted.
  • Clean/change your filter media. Make sure you have a filter that is sufficient to circulate the entire volume of water in your tank at least 3-5 times per hour. A clogged filter will reduce the amount of water exposed to the filter. Since helpful bacteria that convert harmful nitrates to nitrites live in the sponge portion of your filter the safest way to clean it is to siphon some tank water into a bucket and squeeze the sponge rapidly in the bucket until all the debris has been forced out. If you used charcoal in your filter, replace it with fresh charcoal monthly.
  • Use your test kit to check the ph of the water. Also, check your tap water. Compare the results of your tank water test to your tap water test. If the test results are very different you will need to add chemicals to your tap water when performing water changes in Step 7. The chemicals required for this procedure are available at most pet stores.
  • Perform routine water changes of 10-25%. Do this every 2-4 weeks depending on how stocked your tank is and how messy your fish are. It is best to use a siphon with a gravel cleaning attachment when doing water changes. This will enable you to remove excess gunk from the substrate. Siphon the dirty water into a bucket and flush down the toilet. Rinse the bucket out and fill with tap water. When adding tap water, make sure it's the same temperature as the water in your tank. Additionally, use a de-chlorinator to remove chlorine from the new water. You may need to add additional chemicals to alter the ph of your tap water depending on your test results from Step 6.
  • Asses the health of all your fish. Do they same healthy and active? Any spots, sluggishness, injuries or changes in color? Ideally, you should find a spot where you can set up an additional smaller aquarium. This should be just a bare tank with a simple sponge filter. Transfer any sick or injured fish to this tank for treatment and time to heal.
  • Caring for tropical fish is relatively easy. If you have a lot of fish, or very messy fish, expect to do more frequent and larger water changes. The better you are at adhering to the routine care of your fish the healthier and more enjoyable they will be.


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