Fish Tank

A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Fish

Ben McClain

An article by Ben McClain.

Ben is a native of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia. For several seasons he has worked for Zachar Bay Lodge, a remote wilderness destination on Kodiak Island in Alaska. He is experienced in a variety of industries, including: hospitality, home maintenance, aquarium pet, marketing, and journalism.


People tend to be pretty binary in terms of perspective when it comes to keeping fish. On one side you have those individuals who see an aquarium as a delicately balanced ecosystem, which requires a tremendous amount of sophisticated upkeep; opposite of that you have those who view keeping fish as something which is quite passive. Contrary to these more extreme viewpoints, the potential range of physical and intellectual input in the fishkeeping hobby is very wide. In this article we will discuss the basic steps involved with getting a tank of your own up and running, and from there it is up to you how deeply you delve into the world of aquariums and fishkeeping.

First, before you run out the door, routed to the pet store, some planning is in order. Decide first and foremost where your tank will go and how much space it will have. Would you like to have a tank that is bigger, or smaller? Keep in mind that just five gallons of water weighs over forty pounds. It is imperative that you have a proper resting place for your tank. You will need something which is sturdy enough to support all that weight. Many tanks larger than five gallons have an optional stand, which is sold alongside them. These stands can be a good investment for someone who doesn’t have a great place for their tank to rest, as they are built to support the full weight of their corresponding tank.

At this point, chances are you’ve already been daydreaming uncontrollably about what kind of fish you would care to have living in your tank. Visiting a store which specializes in the retail of tropical fish is by far the best way to efficiently determine what varieties of fish appeal to you, and what their specific needs are. Bear in mind that there are many factors which should be considered when choosing the best fish for your community. These factors can include things such as temperament, size, and feeding requirements. Having an informed retail associate assist you is the easiest way to ensure you select a happy, healthy, community of fish.

Don’t get too ahead of yourself though, because before you make any fishy purchases whatsoever, it is necessary to get your tank cycling. This two to three-week process will populate your tank with the beneficial bacteria that are required to break down harmful compounds, such as ammonia, created by the waste your fish produce. It should be noted that this process should under no circumstances be skipped, or avoided, and that water straight from the tap is by no means a suitable medium for any community of fish. To get your tank cycling you will first need to purchase all of your tank hardware, which includes: a tank, a light, a heater, a filter, a bacterial starter, a tap water conditioner, and an aquarium substrate of your choosing. After you have acquired these items, the cycling process is fairly simple.

· Get your tank secured exactly where you would like it to be

· Make sure your substrate is clean and add it to the tank

· Fill the tank with water

· Submerge your heater in the water (to avoid breaking your heater keep it under the water for half an hour before turning it on)

· Mount your filter and ensure it is on and running properly (your filter may come with a cartridge which needs to be opened and loaded)

· Mount your light and turn it on

· Mount your heater and turn it on

· Add the appropriate amount of water conditioner based on the directions

· Add the appropriate amount of bacterial starter based on the directions

That is pretty much all there is to it! As your tank cycles over the next couple of weeks chances are you will need to continue adding bacterial starter, which is as simple as following the directions on the bottle. The starter you purchased should come with a schedule which will have you adding a specified amount every few days based on your tank’s volume. After a couple of weeks you will want to have your water tested. Most pet stores offer free water sample testing to their customers, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to find out if your tank is ready to have fish added to it.

After you get the green light to go ahead and add fish to your tank, you’re in the clear. Purchase your fish and try not to speed too much on the way home. If you must speed it is best to have a loud friend who can wail violently, and feign labor pains from the passenger seat in the event you get pulled over. If you do get pulled over, and you are offered a police escort to the hospital, just request an escort home instead, and say that you don’t believe in medicine. When you arrive home, to avoid giving your fish a temperature shock, you will want to float them in their bags for about ten to fifteen minutes. It is good to try and avoid having your fish isolated to a bag for more than around thirty to forty-five minutes.

Have fun with your new friends!