How to Start a Home Aquarium as a Hobby
Easy Tropical Fish Tanks at Home
Home aquariums look like living pictures. They are relaxing and soothing to watch, and they introduce nature into your home. Raising tropical fish in the home aquarium teaches everyone, including children, the importance of ocean conservation. Their interest in fish helps ensure a future with healthy oceans and abundant marine life. Tropical fish will thrive in your home aquarium, if you provide them with natural living conditions, take care of them properly and give them the right food. Here we explain how to start the home aquarium and how to choose the tropical fish. We talk about the fish tank and stand, the supplies required, filter, pump and plants. But first, find out why people enjoy this hobby so much.
with African Cichlid
Aquarium Fish Are An Interesting Hobby
Many species of tropical fish reproduce in the aquarium, court lavishly and take diligent care of their young. The majority scatter large numbers of fertilized eggs randomly. But live-bearing guppies and swordtails give birth to large, living, self-sufficient "fry".
Angelfish in the
The bodies of most fish are covered with scales like roof shingles to protect against enemies. Fish use fins to remain upright in water and to move forward. Some fish have a sense of touch in their fins, and also use them in courtship displays. The gills of the fish breathe the oxygen dissolved in the water. A few fish, like catfish, can also breathe in the air. Fish have eyes for vision, and a snout, skin folds or whiskers used to smell and taste. They hear well and communicate with sounds or pressure waves.
Did you know that many fish have an electric sense? When they move their muscles, they produce weak electric fields. They also have electro-receptors to detect weak electrical fields generated by the muscle activity all creatures. Sharks and other predators hunting for food can detect the electric fields and locate the fish in the dark. Many fish species defend their feeding places against other fish. During mating season, fish search for an underwater brooding territory and defend it against other fish. There may be fights between aggressive species. Fish can be trained, too. Try using a whistle to call your fish at feeding time. In a few days, the fish will gather at the feeding place whenever you whistle.
Electric Blue Damselfish
The Home Aquarium As a Tropical Ecotope or Biotope
The most beautiful home aquarium usually is the one that reproduces the natural habitat of its tropical inhabitants in the wild. It is called an ecotope or biotope. It simulates a realistic ecosystem with fish, invertebrates, and plants from a specific region of the world. An ecotope could be a South American theme aquarium set up like a heavily planted tropical stream stocked with neons, glowlight tetras or guppies. It could be a West African aquarium with Congo tetras and upside-down catfish swimming among java fern and floating water sprite. A Southeast Asian tank might be planted with crypts, water hyssop and Indian swampweed and stocked with siamese flying foxes, torpedo barbs and spiny eels.
Betta in the
None of the fish species sold for your freshwater home aquarium are endangered in the wild. In fact, the revenues earned by harvesting tropical fish for collectors support native economies. But when local ecologies are destroyed by deforesting, fish habitats are also endangered. Some fish bred in captivity for use in home aquariums are more robust that those caught in the wild, but wild-caught fish often have brighter colors.
Black Skirt Tetra
Choosing Your Home Aquarium and Tropical Fish Tank
In your home aquarium you create a habitat for your fish and plants. Depending on fish you prefer, your aquarium will be either saltwater-marine or freshwater. The freshwater home aquarium requires less equipment and is easier to maintain.
Freshwater Home Aquarium
For a general purpose freshwater home aquarium, the best choice is an all-glass rectangular aquarium in sizes from 12 to 100 inches. The 24-inch measures 24 x 12 x 12 inches and holds 15 gallons of water and can weight 150 pounds when full. This size aquarium is very popular and can be purchased economically as a complete setup. Silicone caulking bonds with the glass and protects against breakage. Acrylic aquariums are a lightweight, stronger and clearer, and are available in globes, cylinders and unusual shapes. Acrylic does scratch easier than glass, so when removing algae deposits, use a special acrylic scraper to avoid scratching the acrylic. An aquarium mat of 1/2 inch polystyrene is used under the aquarium to insulate it and to cushion it on the stand.
The stand must be matched to the size and weight of the aquarium it holds. You can make your own stand of bricks, concrete blocks, aluminum shelving or waterproof wooden beams. Even old television cases and computer monitors have been adapted as aquariums. If your home aquarium will be larger then 4 ft. it's important to consider the how much weight your floor can hold.
Blue Diamond Discus
What the Home Aquarium Needs for Tropical Fish
The typical home aquarium will include a filtration system, an artificial lighting system, and a heater or chiller depending on the inhabitants of the aquarium. Many aquaria have a hood, which prevents evaporation and guards against fish from leaving the aquarium or things from entering the aquarium. They also often hold lights.
Water for the Home Aquarium
Tap water contains too much chlorine to support fish; it must be conditioned with an additive to remove the chlorine. Even if tap water is allowed to stand for several days, the chloramine now used to treat drinking water will not dissipate. Additives formulated to remove chlorine or chloramine are often all that is needed to make the water ready for aquarium use. A brackish or saltwater aquarium requires the addition of a mixture of salts and other minerals, which are commercially available.
The Filter and Pump for the Home Aquarium
To keep the water clean, the pump draws the aquarium water through the filter. The simplest filter is a foam mat filter, driven with air lifts or centrifugal pump. A filter pump should turn over the water two or three times every hour. Select a pump with an adjustable speed, because the slower the pump speed, the better the filtering works.
A small home aquarium can use an inside filter or an outside filter. Use an aquarium hose to vacuum the filter when necessary. Larger tropical fish aquariums use a multiple-chambered inside filter, driven by a centrifugal pump. The filter is usually a washable blue filter foam pad, but the prefilter might be a disposable mesh. Unglazed ceramic beads are an effective but expensive filter medium, and last indefinitely. Activated washed charcoal can be used temporarily to clear up water with problems.
Oxygen supports the life of the tropical fish and breaks down waste products. The filter motor takes in air as it moves the water. A small plastic piece called a diffuser is used on the pump outlet to aerate the water even more.
- Heating the Home Aquarium.
Your home aquarium will be either a tropical warm water aquarium or, more rarely, a cold water aquarium. Water temperature can be regulated with a combined thermostat and heater unit or with a cooling unit. For a small home aquarium, the most convenient heater is placed inside the aquarium or in a filter chamber. You can also use a low-voltage bottom heater under the substrate.
Lighting the Home Aquarium for Tropical Fish
Lighting is important for the growth of the plants and enjoyment of the owner. Plants require on average about 12 hours of light each day. You'll want to put the lights on an electric timer for your convenience.
- Substrate in the Home Aquarium.
The substrate for the bottom of the home aquarium is 2 or 3 inches of well-washed, small, polished gravel. The substrate anchors the plants. Fish dig through it for food and hiding places. The bacteria that break down harmful substances live in it. The gravel must be well washed before it goes into the tank. Put it in a bowl and keep rinsing and draining until the water comes out clean. Once that's done, add the gravel to the home aquarium.
- Small Accessories for the Home Aquarium.
There are many decorative novelties and accessories to add to your tank. To maintain your home aquarium, you'll need a couple of fish nets, a flexible hose, several buckets to change the water, a water test kit, and an algae magnet or a steel scraper to clean the glass.
Plants for the Home Aquarium
Living plants are vital in most home aquariums to provide shelter for fish and to remove ammonia waste products from the water. Plants for the home aquarium are classified into three general types depending on how they grow: Rosette, Rhizomatous and Floating. Rosette plants need a thick layer of gravel for their roots. Rhizomatous plants attach to stones and driftwood. Floating water plants grow as free-floating stems in the water. Popular rosette plants are the Amazon Sword Plant, Balansae, Needle Sagittaria, Melon Sword Plant, Uruguay Amazon Sword. The Rhizomatous plants include the African Water Fern and Schott. The Floating plants are Broad-leaf Water Sprite, Water Wisteria, Water Hyssop, Creeping Red Ludwigia, Najas conferta and Water Sprite. These prefer water temperature of 75 to 80 degrees, and pH 6.5-7, and need only moderate or average light.
in the Aquarium
Plants require fertilizer for growth. You can add a controlled-release fertilizer to the substrate, you can use a liquid fertilizer carefully, or you can add carbon dioxide fertilizer to the water. Larger aquariums use pressurized CO2 canisters with an electronic dispenser.
How to Install the Home Tropical Fish Aquarium
Choose a backdrop for the home aquarium to recreate the natural habitat of tropical fish in the wild. The backdrop should be glued in the inside of the tank with silicone, and allowed to cure for a day. You can glue a piece of black felt to the outside, or paint the outside of the back wall with black or blue paint.
Whatever you put into the home acquarium should not affect the pH value or the water color and should be free of carbonates. Cleaning is the first order of business. Start by washing the aquarium. Then wash the supplies, aquarium decorations, and substrate. If you use wood and roots to provide shelter and hiding places for fish, soak the wood pieces well to remove pigments and make them submersible. Use only stones that have no sharp edges and contain no lime. If you build stone structures or caves, use silicone to secure the rocks. Many fish prefer to hide under fallen leaves, so you can add a small bunch of dry beech or oak leaves after they have been soaked.
Locate the home aquarium away from sunlight, because sun encourages algae growth. Choose a well-ventilated area with the tank away from the wall, so the moisture doesn't encourage mold. For your convenience, place the aquarium near an electric outlet, and near a source of water and a drain. The fish tank should sit level on its stand. Tropical fish need quiet, too, or they get stressed out, so choose a quiet location.
How to Start the Home Tropical Fish Aquarium
Beneficial bacteria that thrive on ammonia will help keep the water clean. They process the toxic products of organic metabolism, ammonia and nitrite into less harmful nitrate. During the breaking-in phase of the home aquarium, helpful bacteria begin to accumulate and support the nitrogen cycle. The home hobby aquarium needs two to three weeks before tropical fish can be added to the water. When the water test shows no detectable nitrite in the aquarium, you can introduce the fish.
During the early stage of a home aquarium, you can lower the nitrite level by replacing a third of the water every week or two, as the water test indicates. You can make the aquarium life stable more quickly by using lots of quick growing water plants which absorb metabolic waste. An oxygen releaser will also help nitrite levels. A filter starter product will improve water quality by establishing high bacteria levels quickly. When ammonia and nitrite levels are both at or near zero, your home aquarium is ready for tropical fish.
Tropical Fish for the Hobby Home Aquarium
You have an amazing choice of fish for your hobby home aquarium. For a freshwater home aquarium, consider neons, glowlight tetras and guppies, cichlids, upside-down catfish and pink-tailed chalceus, zebrafish, white-cheek gobies, siamese fighting fish and harlequin rasboras. For the saltwater home aquarium, consider the playful damselfish, the popular Clownfish, brilliant blue and yellow Tangs and the personable Blennies.
with Yellow Tang
You can purchase tropical fish from a specialty shop, a pet shop, an Internet dealer, the classified ads or a private breeder. Healthy fish do not have white spots, cloudy eyes or frayed fins. Their water should be colorless to show no evidence of medications. The fish you buy will be packaged in a plastic bag, with 1/3 water and 2/3 air. Lay the bag of new fish in the aquarium to equalize the water temperature. Then acclimate the fish to the new water by adding a little water from the home aquarium to the bag of fish several times over a half hour. A local aquarium club or an Internet forum is a source of helpful advice for your hobby.
How to Feed Your Tropical Fish in the Home Aquarium
Almost all species of tropical fish in the home aquarium accept flake food. But specialized food is available in dry form, granules and pellets, to suit every species. Feed the fish several times a day, but give them only as much food as they can eat in a few minutes. If fed too much, fish will overeat, much like humans. Many tropical fish species like to nibble on greens like dandelion and broccoli. Your fish may prefer to eat animals like mosquito larvae, which can be purchased frozen or live. You can even raise food animals like Artemia Brine Shrimp, Grindal worms or water fleas in home aquarium.
How to Maintain the Home Aquarium Fish Tank
Keep the water clean in your home aquarium. Organic substances accumulate in the water from food and excrement. Use a test kit to check ammonia and nitrate levels in the water. A partial water change every week will keep the water sparkling and clear. To change the water, turn off the pumps and heater that might run dry, hose out 1/4 of the water and replace it with fresh conditioned water. Rinse the filter whenever it needs cleaning. Don't use hot water, which kills the good bacteria. Replace the CO2 fertilizer device and the oxygen diffuser when necessary.
Saltwater Home Aquarium
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