Tropical fish tank requirements

Tropical Fish How To Guide

Anyone can have a community tank of tropical fishes and plantsGetting started with tropical fish is easy, provided you do a little research on how to keep tropical fish in advance. Our 10-step how to guide introduces the key decisions.

You could also ask for help at a decent aquarium store, but you’ll get a much better understand if you understand the basics first.

Think through what you want to achieve and then proceed patiently, rather than just rushing to the local fish store this afternoon and leaving with a bruised credit card and a car full of fish kit.

1. Decide what sort of tropical fish you want to keep

Not all tropical fish can be kept together. Some are aggressive, others have special water requirements, but there’s hundreds of species that do happily get along.

Community fish: Most of the smaller fish like tetras, guppies and corydoras catfish that you typically see bustling about in one aquarium are called community fish. A tank of them with plants looks beautiful, is affordable, and gives you plenty of choice in the store, making community fish the best way for a new aquarium keeper to start. (The cardinal tetras above are from Leino88).

Cardinal tetras are good community fishSpecialised fish: About 10% of the freshwater fish you see in a tropical fish store require specific care requirements. Discus, African Rift Valley cichlids, killifish, certain catfish, and oddballs like Elephant Nose fish need tanks with particular water conditions or environments. Others, like pirahnas and many Central American cichlids, are flat out incompatible because they’re too aggressive.

Tankbusters: Some fish are tough and friendly enough to anything they can’t swallow, but they grow far too big for the average aquarium. Pacus, Giant Gouramis, and many big catfish fit into this category. These fish are less readily sold than in the old days, which is good news, as too often they outgrew aquariums and were dumped in the natural environment (a big no-no). Best left to specialists.

An external filter pumps the water outside of the aquariumMarine fish and invertebrates: Require more dedicated and knowledgeable care. This how to is only for freshwater fish, which originally came from the rivers and lakes around the world. (Marine fish come from the sea and so require special salt, as do certain brackish water fish like Scats and Archer fish).

Plants: Tough plants like Amazon Swords will grow in almost any aquarium if given some light and gravel to root in. But if you want to have a really lushly planted aquarium, you’ll need to plan from day one to give your plants the light, substrate and water conditions they require to thrive.

2. Decide how big an aquarium you’ve room for

Next you need to decide how big a fish tank to get, depending firstly on the room you have in your house. Water is heavy, so anything other other than a tiny aquarium requires its own special stand, either bought or home made. With really big aquariums, you may even need to check the floorboards.

You’ll also need to make sure it’s not too near your central heating or a window, both of which can overheat the tank, and it’s a good idea to avoid draughty spots, too. Electrical sockets nearby are a must for tropical tanks.

The size of the aquarium determines how many fish you can ultimately keep. Fish require oxygen and clean water, and so any volume of water can only support so many fish before they start to suffer.

This empty tank has filter, substrate and wood nicely positioned. No fish yet, but plants alone give this tank some beauty and interest A pair of angelfish make a splendid centrepiece for larger community tanks Get your hands wet to keep your tank clean
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