It's carnival season and if your child plays carnival games, you might be holding a bag with a goldfish in it by the end of an evening and wondering what the heck to do with it. Maybe you've already tried the aquarium route and have flushed more fish and given more early lessons to children about death than you care to admit. Either way, keeping a healthy fish tank or goldfish bowl isn't rocket science. I'm here to help.
Geek Alert! My husband has had an aquarium since the age of 7. I kid him about but I really enjoy his hobby. We even splurged on really nice 55 gallon fish tank when moved into our house and it looks great to this day in our family room. The kids really enjoy the aquarium too. It was the perfect baby soother when they were really little.
Here are some general tips and dos and don'ts per my geek husband to keeping a happy, healthy aquarium...
Lesson 1: Fresh Tap Water Kills The most common mistake people make is filling up an aquarium or goldfish bowl and just plopping the fish in. Tap water is hazardous to fish and needs to a little time sit or be "lived in". The easiest way to get the water "ready" is set up the aquarium (with filter, air pump, heater etc...), fill it with water and let everything run as-is with no fish in it for 2 weeks. After the second week, buy a 10 cent feeder goldfish (or 2) and put them in the aquarium for another week. After the third week, the aquarium should be ready for more fish. If you don't want to risk it, take a small water sample to the fish store to have them test it. Try to keep water temperature around 75-80 degrees.
Lesson 2: Choosing Fish Obviously, you can choose whichever community fish you like. But, some fish just are just heartier than others. Angel Fish are beautiful, but they just don't last very long unless everything is perfect. Same goes for Fancy Guppies and those neat-looking Neon Tetras. If your goal is having a fish last a while, I suggest: Silver Dollars (I have 3 that are more than 8 years old!), Gouramis, Kissing Fish, Rainbow Sharks, Pictus Catfish or Bala Sharks.
Lesson 3: Don't Overfeed Fish Overfeeding creates algae problems. Feed your fish twice a day. The rule is to never feed the fish more than they can eat in 2 or 3 minutes. If you have food left after that, you've fed them too much. A neat tip is to show the fish the fish food container before you feed them. You can train them so they go right to the top for chow time once they see the can.
Lesson 4: Change That Water Changing water is relatively easy and it should be done every 3 weeks. All it takes is a gravel vacuum. Use the video below I found on Youtube. The kid did a decent job explaining everything. Aquarium geeks argue over how much water to take out of a tank when cleaning. I usually go for about 40%. If you have small or delicate fish, I'd probably go somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-20%. Water changes are also the perfect time to wipe down the inside of the fish tank to get rid of any excess algae growth. Don't forget to clean your filter or change your filter-pad (if necessary).
Lesson 5: Ask Questions Don't laugh, people forget this one. Ask questions like "does this fish get along with that fish?" etc... Most chain pet stores can offer at least minimal help. The mom-and-pop pet stores can offer the most aquarium help. Aquarium Shine (586-795-Fish, 1673 E. Auburn Road, Rochester Hills, MI 48307, website) in Rochester Hills is great for getting questions answered and they can answer ANYTHING related to fish tanks, building aquarium set-ups, which fish etc...
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