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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How to set up a fish tank

Have you ever been in a doctor’s office and noticed they have a fish tank? The aim is to make the environment more relaxing and friendly. Studies have been done that demonstrate that having a fish tank and watching the fish swim has a moderate effect on lowering blood pressure. Maybe this is the reason you have decided to set up a fish tank or perhaps it is that “first pet” for you to teach your child responsibility. Whatever the reason it is important to be able to set up a tank easily and properly. Most people start out with a ten gallon aquarium because that is the easiest and least expensive when starting the hobby of fishkeeping.

The biggest consideration when setting up your ten gallon aquarium is to decide whether you want to house tropical fish or goldfish. Tropical fish are often more colorful but they need a heater, whereas goldfish are the old standby and generally do not need a heater. The steps for setting up the aquarium are the generally the same with a few exceptions.

It is important to go to the pet store with an idea of what items you will need. The first and most obvious is the tank. Ten gallon tanks can differ in shapes and styles. It is important to find one that you like and will fit most suitably in your decor. You will also need a hood with lights. The hood is need so the fish don’t jump out. The lights in the hood are needed in case you decide to have live plants (light is needed for the plants to grow), and also so that you can see the fish. You can vary the timing of the light, either manually or with an inexpensive electric timer. It shouldn’t be on continuously because excessive light promotes algae growth. It is important that your tank not be in front of a window because sunlight also causes an extreme amount of algae growth.

An air pump is essential to an aquarium. An air pump helps oxygenate the water. The pump is connected to the electrical supply and is usually a black box that sits behind the aquarium. It should never come in contact with the water because it can be dangerous. You can have a variety of air stones or ornamental ornaments that help circulate the oxygen in the tank.

You will also need some sort of filtration system. Filters remove waste matter and help keep the water pure for months at a time. There are mechanical filters which have become more common. The most common mechanical filter and the cheapest is a square transparent box fitted inside the aquarium with an airlift. There should be a lid on this type of filter and inside the box there should be nylon floss. After you connect the filter to the air supply, the water is filtered through the nylon floss. When this nylon floss is dirty you can either replace it or wash it out (although you CAN wash it, it is important to change the floss every so often).

There are also biological filters. These are the undergravel filters. An undergravel filter is a perforated plate that is under the gravel in the tank, connected to a pump. Water is drawn through the gravel where the wastes are trapped. These wastes are then broken down by beneficial bacteria in the tank. A mechanical filter is much more efficient at keeping the tank clean. The biological filters do not work as well and for the most part are considered antiquated.

A heater is needed for tropical fish. The rule of thumb to buying a heater is to buy five watts of power per gallon of water. For example if you have a ten gallon tank you should have a fifty watt heater. It is important not to stray too far away from this rule because if you get a heater that is too much wattage you risk having an unwanted fish fry. Tropical fish need to be kept at at temperature anywhere from 78-82 depending on the species of fish. Goldfish generally do not need a heater; they are able to live in water that is 65 degrees faraheneit. The heater that you buy may already been preset at the correct temperature but most heaters will have a dial at the top in which you can adjust the temperature. You will need a thermometer so that you can check the heater is functioning correctly. Most thermometers you can buy in the pet store will attach to the side of the tank by suction cups.

Another item that you will need that makes a tank complete is gravel. It is not necessary to have gravel but a fish tank looks better with it. How much gravel is needed? The way to calculate how much gravel you will need is to take 2.5 and multiply it by the the gallon size of your tank. For example if your tank is 10 gallons you will need 22.5 pounds of gravel. It may seem like a lot but when you add the water it won’t seem like very much at all. There is no need to boil the gravel. People used to have a misconception that before you placed the gravel in the tank it had to be sterile. Most of this is already done for you and your filter will handle the rest.

Some odds and ends that you will need to make your tank complete are a fish net, fish food (the type obviously depends on the type of fish you put in your tank), a water conditioner (one that has a dechlorinating agent), and a bacteria starter. The bacteria starter is one of the most important things to have for the setup of your aquarium. This agent creates a balance of healthy bacteria in your tank that will help in breaking down fish wastes.

An optional choice for your aquarium is an aquarium stand. Most people set their tanks on a shelf or a sturdy table. This is fine. Some prefer to make it a little classier and add a tank stand that the tank rests upon. Another optional item is decorations. This generally is at your discretion, as fish don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but some fish like to hide behind rocks and won’t be happy unless they indeed have a place to take a break.

When setting up the tank, it is important to read all the instructions that come with the filter, the heater, and so on. Each filter or heater may be slightly different in set up and you want to make sure that you do these things correctly to ensure the safety of you and your fish.

Before you can add fish you must let the tank run for at least a week. This is the most important step. Letting the tank run allows the temperature and water to adjust to baseline levels. Also it allows the bacteria starter to start building a bacteria base. It is always recommended that before you add fish you may want to get your water tested. This is important because water can be different by county or state and you may have an exceptionally high pH level or chlorine level in your water.

Now that you have let the tank run for a week and the water seems fine, you are ready to add fish. Keep in mind to add fish that all get along with each other. Also, add slowly. If you decide to start out with goldfish, because of their messy nature you want to allow 2 gallons of water per inch of goldfish. For tropical fish you want to allow at least 1 gallon of water per inch of tropical fish. Remember to consider the size that the fish will get to! A common myth is that fish will only grow according to their tank size. This is absolutely not true.

If you do decide to start out with tropical fish, you want to make sure they are all compatible. For a beginner it is best to start out with community fish such as guppies, mollies, and so on. It is important to add fish slowly; a ten gallon tank maybe only start out with three or four, even though it will eventually be able to support ten inches of fish. Keep in mind that certain types of fish may need to be in schools, fed a certain diet, or have a certain pH level. If new to the hobby of fishkeeping, it is always best to ask for help in the selection of your fish and also setting up your tank if you have any questions.

So now that you have the basics you are ready to get started. Once they start the hobby of fishkeeping, many people find it hard to stop. Sometimes if you have an inclination that you may like this hobby it is best to start out with a bigger tank. Of course if you are not sure whether this is a passing phase you may just want to invest into the ten gallon or even a smaller fish tank. Pet store employees are often a wealth of knowledge when it comes to fishkeeping, so any doubts that you have can be answered before you get frustrated. Pet stores also sometimes have great starter kits that have everything you need to get you started. It is always important to read and research the idea before you plunge in.