Top Tips on Keeping Aquarium Fish for Beginners

Top Tips on Keeping Aquarium Fish for Beginners

If you are new to keeping fish and would like to adopt some, there are a few basic things you might not know about. For instance some species eat different diets and have different feeding preferences, so it's important to understand the nutritional needs of the fish you are hoping to keep so they stay healthy, happy in a harmonious aquarium environment.

Some Fish Are Ominovores

The majority of aquarium fish are omnivores which means they eat plant and animal matter. This includes goldfish, catfish and mollies. A well balanced diet for ominovore fish should consist of specially formulated flaked food combined with pellets.

Some Fish Are Herbivores

Fish like plecos, African cichlids and silver dollars to name but three are herbivores which means they only eat plants. The perfect diet for these fish is a good quality formulated flake food fed in combination with algae wafers.

Some Fish Are Carnivores

There are some aquarium fish around that are carivores – these species are known as predatory fish and include Bettas and Jack Dempsey cichlids. They prefer to be fed frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms or freeze-dried tubifex worms. You should avoid adopting Oscars because they will eat any other fish you may have in a tank that are smaller than they are.

How To Choose the Right Fish for One Aquarium

If you are planning to keep several species of fish in your aquarium, you need to know the fish you plan to keep are well matched, and answer the following questions:

  • Do the fish survive in comparable water conditions – this means water chemistry and temperature?
  • Do the fish exhibit the same type of behaviour?
  • Do the fish live at different levels in an aquarium?

It's far better to choose fish that behave similarly so that a good balance is achieved in an aquarium. Fish communities that do well together include the following fish:

African Cichlids

African Cichlids are lovely, colourful fish. They are active and pretty easy to care for. However, if they are put in tanks with other fish, they can turn aggressive towards their tank-mates because they're territorial. If you plan to keep a few of them in a tank, you need tomake sure they have plenty of space so they can establish their own territories.

South American Cichlids

These fish are easy to look after and are a lot less aggressive than their African cousins. However, you need to make sure all the fish you keep in your aquarium are the same size so they remain compatible.


There are many varieties of goldfish some of which boast long flowing fins. They are relaxed, easy maintenance fish which makes them the ideal choice for beginners. The other great thing about goldfish is they can live a very long time if well cared for and kept in the right environment – this can be to the ripe old age of 20!

Tropical Fish

There's no doubt that tropical fish are eye-catching with their splendid colours. They are also active and tend to be happiest when kept in schools of about five or more.

Semi-Aggressive Tropical Fish

There are many semi-aggressive tropical aquarium fish and they boast vibrant colours like their non aggressive cousins. Although these fish are fascinating to watch, they can bully smaller fish so it's important to make sure all the fish are around the same size to keep a happy balance.

The Best Species of Fish For Beginners

When setting up an aquarium for the first time, it's important to choose species that are relatively easy to keep so as to avoid any disappointment. There are many popular aquarium fish that would suit a beginner, namely the ones shown in the list below:

  • Fancy Goldfish
  • Tropical Community Fish
  • Betta Fish

However, if you fancy having more unusual aquatic creatures in your tank, you might like to consider the following ones, all of which are pretty easy to keep too:

  • African Dwarf Frogs
  • Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Land Hermit Crabs
  • Newts
  • Pacman Frog

How to Set Up Your Aquarium

Before you get your fish, you'll need to have set up your tank well in advance so the water temperature and chemistry is just right for the fish when you first put them in. Below is a guide to setting up your tank using the right sort of materials:

Wash Everything First

Wash the aquarium gravel, any rocks and ornaments thoroughly before you place them in the aquarium. Never use any sort of soap or detergents when you do this because they are very toxic to fish. The best way to wash gravel is to use a colander and then run clean water over it, stirring the gravel continuously so that all the debris falls through it. Drain the gravel and keep repeating the process until the water runs clear and the gravel is nice and clean. Place gravel in the aquarium very carefully.

Add The Water Gradually

Place a saucer on the gravel where you intend on pouring the water, this helps keep the gravel in place. Using room temperature water from a clean bucket, very gently pour it over the saucer. You should add some AquaSafe at a ratio of teaspoon for every 10 gallons of water – this de-chlorinates the water. Chlorine is very dangerous to fish, so this is one step you must not forget to do. Don't fill the tank right up – but rather just half way up, so you can add the decorations, plants and air tubing that much easier.

Connecting Up The Air Lines

Next you need to connect up any air line tubing from the pump to the air outlets which could be air stones and other decorations. You might want to think about using a CheckValve which is placed on the outside of the tank and which acts as an effective stop preventing water from backing up. This is useful because if the power is cut for any reason, the water won't empty out of the aquarium.

Adding Plants and Decorations

You can add all sorts of decorations to an aquarium, but when it comes to plants you need to make sure they are suitable for the fish and other aquatic creatures you're going to keep. You also need to make sure the water temperature is warm enough for them to survive.

Add the Remaining Water

Fill the tank up with the remaining water but remember to leave enough air space between the aquarium cover and the water level, remembering to pour the water carefully to avoid disturbing the gravel, plants and ornaments already in the tank.

Filters, Thermometer & Heater

You could use outside filters which need to be filled with the right filter materials or cartridges and they need to be placed according to the manufacturer's instructions. You may decide a “hang on filter” might be easier in which case, remember to make sure the pick-up tube sits as close to the bottom of the tank as possible without being too close to the gravel. You need to fill the filter with water so that it's “primed” ready for the pump. Next you need to make sure the heater is secured as shown in the instructions with the thermometer as far as possible away from it, in a place where it's easy to read.

Starting Up the Aquarium

You will need to plug in the air pump, filter and heater and check all the outlets which might need slight adjustments. You should make sure the water is flowing nicely through the filter and then set the heater to the correct temperature then give it enough time to heat up and stabilise.

Checking the Conditions & Temperature

Leave the aquarium for a few hours before checking water conditions and temperature. You may find it takes a couple of days for everything to settle down during which time the water may look cloudy which is caused by harmless bacterial growth. Make sure you check the pH balance of the water before you put any fish in the tank.

Putting Fish in the Aquarium

When the water is at the right temperature and everything has settled down, it's time to put your fish in the aquarium. The fish will be in plastic bags when you pick them up and you need to float the bags in the aquarium for at least 15 minutes so the water in the bag matches that in the tank. Remember, NOT to pour any of the water from the bag into your aquarium because it might contain contaminants. It's much better to take the fish out of the bag using a net and then placing the net in the tank to let the fish go. Cover the aquarium immediately otherwise any lively fish might just jump out!

Feeding Your Fish For the First Time

When it comes to feeding fish for the first time, it's better to let them settle in their new environments for a couple of days during which time you should keep a close eye on them. If you see they are hiding in corners or going a pale colour, it could be there is something wrong with the water temperature which you need to adjust immediately so it's just right.



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