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Caring for Your Aquarium 101

With several pets of his own at home, Dakota has plenty of experience under his belt when it comes to caring for animals.

Having a healthy tank will allow your fish to thrive.

Having a healthy tank will allow your fish to thrive.

How to Take Care of My Fish Tank

Building a tiny ecosystem of plants and animals can be a rewarding experience. And having an aquarium allows you to do just that. Freshwater fish tanks are cheap and easy to set up and maintain. There is also an amazing array of fish available with which you can stock your new aquarium. Many people are hooked for life after purchasing their first fish tank, but maintaining an aquarium can be a very bumpy road. For beginners, it can be incredibly frustrating. There is lots of information available on the internet, but much of it is confusing and, many times, contradictory.

To this end, we have developed this article to give you tips that are important for keeping your fish alive and healthy as a newbie fish keeper. We call this concise course 'caring for your aquarium 101.'

Cycle the Tank

The expression "cycling a tank" means taking the steps necessary to bring the fish's water conditions to a healthy level. This involves the growth of beneficial microorganisms within the aquarium, which will break down waste and help keep the water safe for fish. It would be best if you cycled the tank before you add fish to it. Many newbie fish owners purchase their fish tank and their fish on the same day. That's not right.

Cycling requires patience, and you must wait. We recommend letting the tank run for at least a week before adding fish. Cycling your aquarium with fish in it is like fumigating a house with people inside. It is crucial to start a new aquarium the right way, and until the water parameters are safe, your fish can quickly become ill and die.

Testing and Monitoring

You have cycled, and the water looks 'aquatic'. But how do you know that the water is safe for your fish? There are specific water parameters that can be tested, and you can do this by purchasing an affordable aquarium water tester. An aquarium water tester helps you monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and the pH of your water. Some of these chemical compounds, like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, occur naturally from the lifecycles in your tank. If they are left unchecked, they can build up to unhealthy amounts.

An aquarium water testing kit should last you a while if you test the water weekly. The pH of your water source might not be much of a problem as most fish can adapt to most pH levels. Except the water is very hard. Then, it may be necessary to bring the pH down with some chemicals. The instructions on the test kit will guide you in taking the steps needed to keep the water parameters correct.

Water Changes

Frequent water changes dilute the chemicals in the water and make it healthier for your fish. We recommend that you remove about one-third of the water from your tank every week and replace it with fresh, clean water. This will make it easier to control your water parameters. Waste buildup pollutes the water in an aquarium to the point where it becomes unhealthy for the fish. Vacuuming the gravel in your tank to remove the debris accumulated on the bottom is great for fish health.

Aquarium Filters

The best way to maintain water parameters and keep the chemical levels in order is to change your water regularly. But using an aquarium filter helps reduce the time interval between changes. Filters also increase oxygen in the water. They cause movement at the surface where oxygen exchange occurs.

Be sure to replace the filter media every three to four weeks. It would help if you also gave the filter housing a quick rinse. And if any algae or debris has accumulated in the intake tube, clean that as well.


Avoid overfeeding. This can be hard for new fish owners because the more you throw in food, the more fish eat. Do not feed more than the fish will eat in a short while. Excess food is unhealthy for the fish and can lead to many diseases. Leftover food also dirties the tank and causes spikes in the chemicals, as mentioned earlier.

Finally, make sure to research a fish before purchasing. It's okay to make mistakes; many fish owners learn as they go. It gets easier. But you don't want to leave too many dead fish in your wake as you plod forward and learn the ropes, so take these tips seriously.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Dakota Newman