For families with limited space, a fish is a great way to introduce a pet without the hassle of a high-needs animal or daily walks. If you are bringing home a fishy friend, read on to learn more about how to care for your aquatic companion:
Tank Size & Location
Fish need ample space with clean water in order to be happy and healthy. It is generally recommended that beginners go with a 20 gallon aquarium as it will be easier to maintain (correct water condition is easier to attain in a bigger tank). Your aquarium store will make recommendations on stocking levels and size of fish based on the tank size you select. They will also assist you in choosing fish that can co-exist in the same environment.
Your tank should be placed on a sturdy table or purpose built stand, ideally in close proximity to a water source. Direct sunlight and positioning next to heaters should be avoided to prevent temperature fluctuations (and in the case of sunlight, excessive algae growth).
For fish, decorations provide interesting features, hiding places, safe refuges and sleeping areas; for people, they provide beauty and visual appeal. When choosing decorations for your aquarium, avoid any type of plastic unless it is certified not to leach chemicals into the water, as that could harm or even kill your fishy friends. Options like rocks and safe underwater plants are a great idea, as are sealed metal features.
It is important to thoroughly rinse any item you place in the tank (especially the gravel).
Tank Filters & Lighting
In a natural environment, fish live in water that is constantly being filtered and replenished by features like rocks, inlets and other animals. In a tank, however, a filter is needed. Filters remove debris and waste from water and leave it clean and safe for the fish. Talk to an aquarium specialist at your local pet store to determine which filter will best suit your needs.
It is also generally recommended that a pH neutralizer chemical is used when replenishing the tank with clean water to ensure the environment is optimal. This will depend on the breed of fish you are choosing so please consult your aquarium specialist.
A fluorescent light fixture is the norm as this ensures your fish look their best and that plant growth is supported. Leave the lighting on for 12 hours a day and then switch off during the night.
Fish eat a variety of foods and the type of fish you purchase will determine what you feed them. Many fish foods come in the form of dehydrated flakes or pellets while some larger fish may need to eat small bait fish or even seeds. These foods should be fed sparingly so as not to overload the tank and reduce the quality of the water. Consult your aquarium store on the best foods and feeding frequency for your breed of fish.
Day to Day Care
When you first bring your fish home, after setting up the tank, float the aquarium bags in the tank for 15 to 30 minutes. This is to ensure temperatures are the same when you release the fish.
Keep an eye on the water temperature as a routine. A simple tank thermometer is perfect.
Each week drain several gallons of water from the tank and replace with fresh pre aged water. Also scrape any algae growth and test the pH of the water.
Once a month give the filter a clean (changing the pads / charcoal as directed).
Enjoy your new fish and let us know if you have any questions.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian