An aquarium is a window into another world. It provides relaxation, education and hours of entertainment. But owning an aquarium requires more than just choosing the best looking fish in the pet store.
Your first consideration should always be whether or not you have the time and patience to care for the fish. Once you’re committed to the idea, know that the world below the water has a magical attraction, and as an aquarium owner and fish keeper, you get to recreate your own version of the great blue sea.
So you’ve finally purchased the aquarium you’ve always wanted – here’s everything there is to know about taking care of your saltwater aquarium, including when to change the water, how often to feed your fish, special decor ideas to spice up your aquarium, and more.
Choosing The Right Tank
When it comes to choosing an aquarium for your home, there are several things to think about. First, how big should the aquarium be? Tanks that hold 60 to 100 gallons are generally considered to be the best, as larger tanks create a more successful marine experience. An aquarium is a visual hobby, after all, and a larger tank creates a panoramic, high-definition experience.
Additionally, many species of tropical fish grow very quickly. You want your aquarium to have enough room for the fish to move around comfortably. Popular species such as pacu and pangasius, which are referred to as “tank busters” because they reach over a foot in length, will quickly outgrow a small or medium-sized aquarium. Fish that grow too big for a tank will barely be able to turn, causing their muscles to atrophy. Other things to consider when buying an aquarium include:
- Acrylic vs. glass. Both types of aquariums have their advantages and disadvantages. Acrylic is clearer than glass and gets 14% more light. On the other hand, it scratches easily and requires a stand sturdy enough to support the entire bottom of the tank. Glass aquariums are cheaper and require fewer specialized tools to work with, which is something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget.
- Surface area of the aquarium. The amount of oxygen a tank has is largely determined by the surface area of the aquarium. The larger surface area, the more oxygen, and therefore the more fish your aquarium can support.
How To Feed Your Fish
Less is more – that’s the rule of thumb when it comes to feeding fish. Overfeeding is a common error that many fish owners make, which is why food packaging typically include warning labels that read “do not overfeed.” In general, most fish will be satisfied with one feeding per day, but you can feed your fish twice per day if the portions are kept small. Here are some food basics:
- The five-minute rule. Overeating stresses fish. Feed your fish no more than what they will eat in five minutes. After that, remove everything that isn’t eaten. Excess food build-up pollutes the water, overloads your filter and increases waste product.
- Feed with small portions. Whether you’re feeding your fish pellets, tablets or lettuce, feed them small portions. In other words, don’t just open the bottle of flake food and dump it in the aquarium. Pace the feeding with small, bite-sized pieces.
Popular food choices include:
How To Change The Water And Clean The Tank
In order to have healthy fish, your aquarium needs to be properly maintained. The water should be changed regularly and the tank cleaned. Imagine what your home would look like if it wasn’t swept or vacuumed – the same is true for the home of your fish. A functioning aquarium has several components, from the filter and air pump to gravel and decorations, and they all need special attention. Take care of your new aquatic environment by doing the following:
- Change the filter and water every 2-4 weeks. The filter is the heart of your aquarium. When you change the filter, it’s also a good idea to do a partial water change. Change anywhere from 10-45% of the tank water depending on the type of fish you have and waste levels. The more water you change, the more stressful for the fish as the change in environment disturbs the chemistry of the tank.
- Remove waste buildup. In order to remove decomposing waste buildup, vacuum the rocks and gravel every 2-4 weeks. A siphon-operated gravel vacuum works best. If the aquarium is cloudy or the water is beginning to smell bad, vacuum the gravel sooner.
- Maintain a consistent temperature. Many tropical fish need a water temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. To make water temperature reading easy, consider purchasing an adhesive thermometer that can be place on the outside of your aquarium.
Decor And Aquascape
Tropical fish feel comfortable and secure in underwater environments. From plants and coral to sunken ships and anchors, creating a unique aquatic landscape for your fish to enjoy is part of the fun of setting up an aquarium. One of the best ways to create an aquascape is to pick a theme:
- Graveyard of the Atlantic. It’s a classic aquarium motif. Incorporate sunken galleons, clipper ships, treasure chests, and antique diving bells, and turn the bottom of your aquarium into a real ship graveyard. Enhance the shipwreck theme with reef coral, pieces of driftwood, and colorful aquatic sponges.
- Cartoon characters. SpongeBob, Nemo, Ariel from The Little Mermaid – what child wouldn’t like an aquarium turned into an undersea adventure from their favorite movies and television shows?
- Asian overtones. Outfit the aquarium with small pagodas, stemmed bamboo plants, driftwood, and an oriental lantern and you’ll feel as though you traveled to the heart of Asia.
Whether you’re a beginner hobbyist or an experienced fish keeper, an aquarium is a dazzling addition to any room. A saltwater tank is not only a great conversation piece and a source of entertainment for family and friends, but it gives you the chance to be a true undersea explorer!