Introduction to Freshwater Aquariums
Instead of “The Age of Aquarius,” the 1960s band The Fifth Dimension could have named their hit song, “The Age of Aquariums.” All across the country, people are choosing fish as pets and keeping the fish in aquariums in homes, workplaces, dentists’ offices, and elsewhere.
The two main types of aquariums are freshwater and saltwater (also known as marine) aquariums. The aquarium itself does not vary, only the type of water in the aquarium, and thus, your decision between a freshwater and a saltwater aquarium is primarily a matter of choosing what type of fish you want. Freshwater aquariums do, however, allow for a greater fish capacity than do saltwater aquariums, and freshwater fish are cheap and easy to find. In addition, freshwater aquariums are also easier to maintain than are saltwater aquariums because you can use tap water to fill your tank.
Whichever type of aquarium you choose, you will need to monitor your aquarium to take care of your fish. The number one cause of aquarium fish deaths is poor water quality; thus your freshwater aquarium needs to provide filtration and aeration for fish.
Of course, aquariums are not just a responsibility (though they can help teach children responsibility); they are a lot of fun. Aquariums can provide a soothing atmosphere in your home and workplace, and they can also provide a learning experience for children and adults alike.
Choosing and Buying a Freshwater Aquarium
The main difference between aquariums is whether they are made from glass or acrylic. Glass aquariums are the traditional aquarium material, and they are still the cheapest and easiest to clean. On the other hand, acrylic (e.g. plexiglass) aquariums are stronger and easier to see into than are glass aquariums, and they come in multiple non-traditional shapes and styles. Most glass aquariums have the traditional rectangular design, but acrylic aquariums come in cubic, cylindrical, and octagonal shapes, among others.
Many people, however, opt for the ease of a glass bowl or vase. While these items adequately house your fish, they do not include a filter or have good aeration, so you should only purchase fish such as beta fish that can breathe at the surface. In addition, you should change the water frequently in your bowl or vase.
In general, freshwater fish experts say that the bigger aquarium you have, the better it is for the fish. When choosing the size of your aquarium, consider the number (and expense) of fish you want to house, as well as your available space. In addition, remember that aquariums are very heavy. A twenty-gallon tank, for example, weighs more than two hundred pounds, so make sure the spot you plan for the aquarium can support that weight. A ten-gallon freshwater aquarium is standard, but many experts recommend a twenty-gallon tank. You can also purchase small, two to five gallon tanks, but these tanks will only support a few fish.
Fortunately, freshwater aquariums are fairly inexpensive. At a pet store, a ten-gallon glass aquarium might cost only ten dollars and a twenty-gallon tank would cost approximately thirty-five dollars. Acrylic aquariums are more expensive, but you can buy them online. For a real deal, you can check out garage sales, but at pet stores you can likely purchase a pre-assembled aquarium, complete with all the aquarium accessories, such as a filter and pump. These features add significantly to the price, but it makes your set-up process much easier.
Freshwater Aquarium Set-Up and Supplies
- Before you place fish into your freshwater aquarium, clean the aquarium, and the area where you will set the tank. You can clean your aquarium with a diluted bleach solution (one teaspoon of bleach for five gallons of water), as long as you thoroughly rinse the aquarium afterwards. Place your aquarium near an electrical outlet and away from direct sunlight.
- Install the aquarium’s filtration system (the best filters serve as biological, chemical, and mechanical filters) according to the manufacturer’s instructions and insert aquarium gravel.
- Then, unless the pet store told you otherwise, add regular tap water to the tank and fill the aquarium to approximately one inch from the top.
- Next, install the heater, keeping in mind that tropical fish prefer a water temperature in the high seventies, while coldwater fish want the fifties and sixties.
- Add any other devices you have, such as an air pump, chlorine remover, and then run everything for a day before adding your fish.
- Finally, one big part of the fun of having an aquarium is designing an entire aquatic environment through the use of ornaments. In addition to the gravel, look into plants, hideouts, and florescent lamps, all of which add lively color to your aquarium.
Maintaining a Freshwater Aquarium
As the number one cause of aquarium fish deaths is the poor water quality, your number one aquarium maintenance job should be maintaining the water quality in your aquarium. Purchase a chemical test kit and regularly test the water (approximately every two weeks) to check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph levels. The ammonia and nitrite levels should be at zero (though it will take time to stabilize whenever you add fish or replace water) and the pH level should be approximately seven.
On a slightly more regular basis (perhaps once a week), you should replace about ten percent of the water in the aquarium with dechlorinated water. In addition, regularly check the temperature in the tank to make sure it stays within your fish’s tolerance zones.
In addition to watching the water quality of your freshwater aquarium, you should also regularly clean the tank—both for your sake and for the sake of the fish. Scrape algae off the interior cover and walls of the aquarium using an algae scraper, scrubber pad, or razor blade, but don’t use soaps on any interior walls and be especially careful with acrylic aquariums. For the exterior of the aquarium, try an ammonia-free glass cleaner.
Finally, from time to time you should check the filter pads in your tank and remove the gravel from your tank to shake out any small debris and to clean it using specialized gravel cleaner. These actions call for more extensive activity, so you only need to do them on occasion, but your fish will appreciate it if you keep them (the cleaning and the fish) in mind.