Here are my easy care aquarium instructions that follow a holistic model that involves prevention and alternatives to chemical treatments. If you have any questions after reading this information, use the contact link at the bottom of the page to write to me. - Nori (steamboats.com/hobbies/aquarium.html)
PLEASE PRINT THIS PAGE OUT AND KEEP IT ON FILE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE.
Feeding The leading cause of fish loss is overfeeding. If your water is cloudy or your filter gets clogged, you are overfeeding. Fish are like little fairies who don't need to eat much. Two or three flakes per day per fish is enough. If they grow larger, you can increase it a little. If you put food in and the food just floats on the top or sinks to the bottom, you are over feeding. A hungry fish would never let food float on the top or float the bottom.
Fish are terrible gluttons and will eat whatever you give them. They will act hungry all the time, but they really just want attention. If you overfeed, you are harming them, and they will die.
Recently in the aquarium supply shop, I met another customer who said her formula for her betta fish is to feed it four pellets every other day. I said, "How about two pellets per day?" She said, "NO. Four pellets every other day." I am currently trying that, but with only three pellets every other day.
The best way to feed fish is first get their attention so they come to the top. Then drop one flake or pellet at a time until each fish has and a few bites. That's it for the day. You can feed them daily or every other day, but a box of fish food should last forever.
Live food I once had critters that needed live food. However, that is such a giant hassle, plus gross. Unless you are on the advanced level and must have exotic fish that eat only live food, my advice is to avoid it. The live food can go bad, then you end up with a buch of dead bugs or worms, and it is all just one big, gross waste of money. If at all possible, stick to flakes or pellets you can buy off the shelf.
Plants Another problem that might contaminate the water are rotting aquarium plants. My experience with live plants was that certain kinds of fish try to eat them, they die, rot, and pollute the water. I prefer silk or plastic plants. Also, replace artificial plants when they become difficult to keep clean.
Hiding places All fish like to hide. Be sure to provide rocks, drift wood, or plants so they can have a safe place to hide when they want to. Soak new rocks and drift wood in clean water before adding them to your tank. Sometimes they bleed out dirt that can tint the water or make it appear cloudy. Soak new drift wood until it sinks, then add it to the tank.
Selenite pollution Another thing to rule out in a cloudy tank in selenite pollution. Besides cloudy water, you might find pickets of jelly around the filtration equipment, etc. This is because many "crystals" you buy at gem shows or gift shops are actually selenite. It looks like a crystal, but it is actually a rock of salt with toxic elements. After a few months sitting in water, it starts to melt. If you notice your "rocks" melting, remove them, change as much water as possible without stressing the fish, clean out the filtration equipment, sponge clean the sides of the tank, and all surfaces. This happened to me in 2012. I bought a few selenite eggs and later thought they would look good in the tank. However, they melted by about one-third and killed my betta fish. After that I got a new fish, but still had not found out about selenite. Finally, I realized what was going on and cleaned everything out. The fish survived, thankfully. That was my mistake and I did it twice. However, it may have happened a third time. Earlier this year, probably in April, I bought a bag of red aquarium gravel from the pet shop. It was fine for about a month, but suddenly the tank was cloudy and I had jelly forming in the filtration box. Today I removed the rest of the gravel and changed more water. The fish is suffering, but now that all the gravel is gone, it is more likely he will survive. I put the red gravel in a glass bottle with water, put a top on it, and put it in the back of a closet as a science project. If the gravel continues to melt, at least I will know what the problem is. Selenite has been the most frustrating problem I have ever dealt with in the aquarium hobby. Wait a minute, I take that back. It is just the most recent problem after a lifetime of keeping aquariums on and off. Trying to name the most difficult lessons I have been through with aquariums would be hard to do.
Cleaning the tank One mistake people make is to remove too much water at the time of cleaning. Fish don't do well in sterile water. They need an ecosystem of natural, friendly bacteria [beneficial microbes] to protect their silky coat, help them breathe, and help break down fish waste in the tank. There is a microbial tank conditioner available in aquarium stores called "Cycle" that provides organic biology to make fresh water more like the natural habitat that fish need. Keep the bottle in the refrigerator and follow the directions on the label whenever you add water to the tank. (You can purchase "Cycle" at your local aquarium shop or through PetsMart.com. Cycle is good for conditioning a new tank, and if you take care of your filters properly, you may never need to add more Cycle. If your fish are healthy, it probably means you have a healthy microbe culture.
Clean the tank two times a month, more or less. The more strict you are with the fish's diet, the less you often you need to clean. First scrub down the water ring and anything growing on the inside glass with a small sponge used only for the aquarium. Let the water settle.
Buy a syphon vacuum cleaner at your fish store (or PetsMart.com) and run it around the gravel at the bottom to remove waste material. You should be able to accomplish this by only removing twenty percent of the water. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get out what you can. When you fill the tank, use only bottled water (unless you live in a community with unusually pure water).
If you use a heater, make sure the water you add is the exact same temperature as the existing water in the tank. If you don't use a heater and the tank is room temperature, use water that is room temperature.
Buy "Cycle" at your local aquarium supply shop or order online, click here: PetsMart.com. This is the only "medicine" you need to keep your tank healthy. The microbes provide the organic biology that breaks down decomposing food and fish waste. It provides the ideal ecosystem for freshwater fish. Store in the refrigerator between use.
You can get a gravel vacuum cleaner at an aquarium shop, or order through PetsMart.com, click here. The large end goes in the gravel. The small end is where you start the syphon. The large tube will pick up debris, but not fish or rocks.
Lighting Set the tank in a light room, but not in direct sunlight. Direct sun is not good for fish and will make the tank grow algae. If there is no natural lighting, use the lamp in the tank cover. Leave it on four or five hours, or less if the room gets natural light. If your aquarium gets too much light it is more likely to grow algae. If a lamp/hood falls in the tank when it is on, it will electrocute your fish. Another good reason to rely on natural lighting.
Unwanted visitors Sometimes when you bring home a new fish, the water that comes with the fish may contain snails, parasites, or other entities. Just remove them from the tank and continue with a sparse diet and Cycle in the tank.
Fish fights If you put incompatible fish in the same tank, they will attack each other. Be careful that you don't overstock your tank. Check with your local aquarium supply store for how many fish to keep for your tank size, also what fish will live peacefully together. If you have a longtime fish, don't expect it to get along with a newcomer. Fish can get territorial, especially in a crowded tank. If one of your fish gets a torn fin, there is a good chance it will regenerate. Put it in a safe tank where the other fish cannot attack it.
Illness If your fish get sick, DO NOT attempt to doctor them by using medicine from the fish store. The chemicals they sell are generally a waste of money. Fish usually get sick because of over feeding. Adding dangerous chemicals to the water will not help. Try adding extra Cycle. If they have ICK, the best remedy is plain old Stress Coat, which is an aloe vera solution that helps protect the fish's silky coating. Only use Stress Coat if you have illness in the tank, otherwise it may make the water cloudy. The best way to apply the Stress Coat is to coax the sick fish to swim up to the top of the tank and drip the Stress Coat directly onto the fish. Do not remove the fish or handle the fish, just drip the Stress Coat on it in the water. Several treatments like this, plus reduction of food, and Cycle in the water, is the best way to cure ICK.
Stress coat is available through PetsMart.com or any aquarium shop. You can use it when you set up a new tank, but do not overuse it and do not use it every time you change the water. If you have tank problems, add Cycle [microbes] with tank changes, not Stress Coat [aloe vera].
Tips to prevent illness
* Never touch fish or pick them up. Your hand will damage their silky coating.
* Change only twenty percent of the water at a time and make sure the temperature of new water matches water already in the tank.
* Use Cycle in the water, but no other chemicals.
Symptoms of Overfeeding (tank)
When you over feed, food floats for a long time or hits the bottom * filter clogs easily * glass shows algae blooms * water turns cloudy or viscous * water smells * nitrates, ammonia levels rise * pH fluctuates
Symptoms of Overfeeding (fish)
Fish hover at the bottom or top * swim sideways * bloated * spotted * discolored * ICK * trouble breathing * listless * alternate motionless / darting
If you have an emergency in the tank
Stop all chemical treatments. Stop all feeding for forty-eight hours, then resume with a strict diet. Change twenty percent of the water a day, adding a small amount of Cycle each time. Change the water until it is clear. This should happen within the first day or two, then stop changing the water.
Once the water is clear, give the fish time to heal. Feed sparingly and gradually increase diet. If fish are hungry, they will catch the food. If a flake hits the bottom, then you are over feeding. Cut back as much as possible to keep the water healthy.
Caution: With each water change, make sure you keep the water temperature constant.
ICK treatment: If a fish has ICK, do a Stress Coat treatment described above.
Contact If you would like to discuss your aquarium problems, please write to me. - Nori contact Info.