Go into any aquatic shop and you will see row upon row of prepared, pre-packaged fish foods - flake, granular, pellet, liquid, wafers - and in as many 'flavours' you care to imagine, all designed to satisfy fishes' dietary needs be they carnivore, herbivore or omnivore by nature. And that's only the foods on the shelf - there's still the frozen cabinet contents to consider too!
However, and as much as you'd like to pamper your fish - don't! More fish are killed with kindness than ever die from disease; this kindness goes by the name of OVERFEEDING.
It's not that the fish grow old fat and chloresterol-laden it's just that any uneaten (or undigested) foods laying in the tank will eventually cause problems, polluting the tank, depleting the oxygen levels as it decomposes, or generally adds to the 'nutrient levels' that also encourage rampant algae. You have been warned!
Only feed little and often, and make sure the fish actually eat what you give them within a few minutes. If you share the aquarium with the rest of the family, then make sure everyone knows that you've 'just fed the fish.'
In addition to commercially-available foods, you can also feed your fish live foods such as Daphnia (Ware Fleas), Mosquito larvae (from rain-butts), chopped earthworms (if you can do it!) and other cultured 'worm foods'. An excellent food for new-born fish (once you get around to breeding) is Brine Shrimp whose tiny nauplii can be hatched from eggs in a salt water solution.
Although aquarium plants do much to cleanse the water, there is still the need for partial water changes. Nitrates build up from filtration processes and these are effectively diluted when a proportion of the aquarium water is replaced periodically. Around 20% per month is usual.
Replacement water should be of the same quality and temperature as of that it is replacing although many fishkeepers say that they add water straight from the tap (or hosepipe) and their fish appear to love chasing around in the water flow.
The main problem comes when you introduce fish from areas of other water qualities - you may have bought some new fish at a distant Fish Show, for instance. If you have a spare tank you can put the new fish in there whilst you acclimatise them to your own water conditons. In fact, quarantining any new purchase or acquisition is always a good idea rather than to put your main collection at risk.
A part of good aquarium management is the regular maintenance of filters. You should rinse out a proportion of the sponge filter medium in some aquarium water; this cleans it without destroying any beneficial bacteria which may have developed in it.
If you have an external cannister filter then periodically you should run a brush through the hoses to clear them of debris and algae build up.
Don't forget to take the filter motor apart, from time to time, and clean off any slime that has collected on the impeller and its bearings.
Remove any collected sludge from under the undergravel filter plate by inserting a pipe down the uplift tube and siphoning out some water; also gently rake over the surface of the substrate to ensure adequate water flow through the system.
You are sure it won't happen to your fish - but it will!
Fortunately most of the easily-recognised ailments can be cured by any of the remedies found at your aquatic shop but there are one or two things to bear in mind.
To ensure effective dosing, you must know how much water your aquarium actually holds. Don't be tempted to under-dose 'just to be safe' - it won't cure the disease: don't over-dose 'just to be sure' - it may kill the fish!
When treating an aquarium against disease, some plants may be set back by the medication. Also, most remedies affect oxygen levels so it is a good idea to add extra aeration during periods of treatment.
If one treatment doesn't work don't just add a dose of another remedy; the two remedies could interact to form a toxic substance.
It's good practice to keep notes of remedies used and their effectiveness, then you can readily reach for the perfect remedy should the ailment return.
What Fish to Keep?
Aquarium Size & Water Preparation
Heating, Filtration Systems
Setting-up and Running-In
Fish & Plants
Return to Table of Contents
Last updated March 27, 2002