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First-Timers Common Boo-Boos

It's exciting to bring home new fish and set up your first aquarium. But it can also be most disheartening should you find your fish dying on you soon after. Inexperienced fish hobbyists may unwittingly make mistakes that result in their fish failing ill or dying. Such incidents, which usually concern the maintenance of water quality, can be avoided if beginners make the effort to learn a few basic fishkeeping rules before getting their feet wet.

Determining The Aquarium Size

Don't assume that it's easier to start with a small aquarium than a large-size aquarium. In most cases, it's the medium- or large-size aquariums that could work to your advantage. Harmful effects resulting from any chemical imbalance (from the biological breakdown of food matter, chemical additives, fertilizers, waste products) in the water parameters will be somewhat "diluted" in an aquarium with a big volume of water.

Cycling The Aquarium

Don't fill up your aquarium with water and introduce the fish into it immediately. It is vital for anyone planning to keep tropical fish to understand the nitrification process. This means creating an aquatic ecosystem that resembles the natural habitat of your fish as closely as possible. Amongst the many micro-organisms co-existing in this ecosystem are several types of bacteria that perform functions beneficial to fish and other aquatic life.

Your fish produce waste that largely constitutes ammonia and other nitrogenous wastes that are a major factor in the death of aquatic life in captive conditions. If you allow the ecosystem to build up naturally in your aquarium and let colonies of beneficial bacteria grow, you'll prevent ammonia from reaching dangerous levels. 

This is because the nitrifying bacteria in the water will convert the toxic ammonia into a less harmful compound called nitrite, which is then converted into an even less harmful compound called nitrate. Thus it's best to allow some of these beneficial co-habitants to be established in the water before you start introducing your fish into the aquarium. This process can take two weeks or longer to complete.

Changing The Water

Do not wait till the water in your aquarium turns murky to change it. The key to optimizing water quality and fish health is to change part of the water on a regular basis. Generally, you should change 20 per cent of the water weekly.

If you are just setting up your aquarium, or the quality of water is not satisfactory, make more frequent changes, but in smaller quantities. Frequent partial water changes have several benefits: dilution of toxic compounds, removal of particulate matter, reduction in microbial populations and reduced algae growth and odour.


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