Aquariums: little fish but still a big task to tackle
Having an aquarium in your home is always a spectacular sight but this shouldn’t be a whimsical idea.
Keeping fish as pets is as much a responsibility as having any other sort of domestic animal. In fact, an aquarium probably takes even more time, energy and money. Fish may be little but it’s still a big task.
Most importantly, you need a suitable environment for fish so choosing an aquarium needs lots of thought.
Bigger is better when it comes to size. Always aim to provide more than the minimum required. Also bear in mind the eventual size of fish you want to get.
Some fish grow very large and are unsuitable as pets. These include catfish such as the red tail, shovelnose and pangasius, plus the giant gourami and pacu. Always research the adult size of any fish you’re intending to buy.
Position your aquarium away from heat sources such as direct sunlight.
Filtration is vital for remo-ving waste from the tank. It takes time for beneficial bacteria to grow on the filter sponge which are essential in breaking down fish waste.
Goldfish will need to be kept within 10-21°C. Most other fish need a tank heater with a thermostat set to the correct temperature for the species.
Artificial lighting is recommended during the day so the fish have a steady light cycle, as they would experience in the wild.
‘Decorative’ tanks, which include goldfish bowls, jars or children’s tanks are designed as ornaments without any consideration for animal welfare.
The small size is inadequate (fancy goldfish require at least 60 litres of water each) and small volumes don’t allow for a stable environment.
There isn’t enough space for an efficient filter, so waste products can’t be removed.
The low surface area means that not enough oxygen will be absorbed into the water.
Temperature levels can alter rapidly which can cause stress and even death.
The number of fish you can keep in an aquarium depends not only on the water quality but also the behavioural needs of the fish. Keeping too many fish in the tank means they’ll have to compete for food and they may become stressed as a result.
Fish learn routines with food and building these routines is a sensible idea; if you usually feed them around 7am, 12pm and 6pm every day, you’ll soon find them waiting for you at those times.
Always make sure you buy the right type of food for your fish (don’t buy your goldfish tropical fish flakes for example). This is because they contain different levels of nutrients.
The quantity of food needed will have to be adjusted according to the size and quantity of fish in the tank. Always feed as much as the fish can eat within two to five minutes and don’t overfeed the fish. Also, it’s better to feed two or three times a day rather than just once a day
A well balanced diet
It’s important to supplement fish food flakes with other foods for balanced nutrition and enrichment.Goldfish will welcome chopped vegetable matter like peas and spinach.
Tropical fish vary in what they’ll eat – frozen then fully thawed fish, crumbled boiled-egg yolk and some lettuce leaf depending on the species.
Certain species of pleco need vegetables such as potato, or pieces of wood which they graze on.
Invertebrate foods are an excellent supplement for tropical fish and are widely available in frozen packs including daphnia (‘water fleas’) or brine shrimps. Only feed small amounts to goldfish due to the high protein content.
Different tropical fish species will need their food presented differently. Middle and bottom-dwelling species will need their food delivered accordingly (quickly sinking food or compressed food ‘tablets’) and nocturnal species, like some catfish, need to be fed last thing at night.
If you go away on holiday, it’s vital to have a responsible person to check on the fish and equipment daily.
Tropical fish will need daily feeding, and it’s important that whoever feeds them in your absence knows how to feed them and to avoid over-feeding (preparing some meals in advance can be a good idea).
It’s actually better to under-feed rather than overfeed because fish are more susceptible to poor water quality than a lack of food.
An automatic feeder will release a measured amount of food each day. However, a responsible person should be asked to check the tank daily to ensure the equipment is working.
Information courtesy of the RSPCA.