Your Starter Guide for Keeping Exotic & Tropical Fish Happy & Healthy
Date Posted:5 August 2022
Owning exotic and tropical fish for the first time can be daunting, but it’s not as hard as it seems when you understand what tropical fish need. Once you know what equipment, food and accessories you need for your tropical fish, it’s just a matter of setting up your tropical fish tank and buying them from a reliable fish store. Here are some tips on what you need to buy and do to get ready for the arrival of your new fish!
Are Tropical Fish Hard to Keep?: Choosing the Right Tropical Fish for Your Aquarium
Aquarium hobbyists often wonder if tropical fish are hard to keep. Some fish are more challenging than others, but, with proper research and preparation, most tropical fish can be successfully kept in an aquarium. The key to success is choosing the right fish for your aquarium and providing the correct environmental conditions.
One of the most important things to consider when setting up an aquarium is the water temperature. Most tropical fish require water temperatures between 25–28 degrees Celsius. If the water temperature is too low, the fish will become lethargic and may not eat. If the water temperature is too high, the fish may become stressed and could die.
Preparation for Keeping an Exotic or Tropical Fish
Before you buy your fish, make sure you have everything you need to keep them happy and healthy. Follow the advice below to get yourself and your fish tank ready to take on new pets!
Get a Large Aquarium or Fish Tank
You might be surprised to learn that aquariums get easier to care for as they get larger. This is due to the fact that the more water you have, the easier it is to maintain a balanced environment. We recommend a 60L aquarium or larger for first-time tank owners. You should also, of course, choose the size based on how many fish you’re planning to keep. Once you are experienced at caring for tropical fish, you can have some more freedom with tank sizes — there are, after all, many breeds of tropical fish that are quite small and do not require a lot of space.
Keep Your Aquarium in an Ideal Location
There are many variables to consider when it comes to choosing the right spot for your aquarium. The main thing to remember is that the tank has to remain at a consistent temperature. Don’t place it near heaters, fireplaces or any area that experiences notable temperature fluctuations. On another note, don’t put it in spots where there are likely to be loud noises, such as next to the TV. Keep in mind that an abundance of natural light can cause a buildup of algae, so avoid places that receive a lot of direct sunlight. It’s also best to steer clear of windows and high-traffic areas.
Watch Your Tropical Fish Tank’s Water Temperature
It is incredibly important that the water temperature in your tank is exactly right. So, what temperature should a tropical fish tank be at? The answer varies from breed to breed, so make sure you do your research. Generally, you will need to keep the water at around 26 degrees Celsius for most tropical fish to be happy. On the other hand, fish like Discus prefer warmer water between 28–31 degrees Celsius.
Monitor the temperature of your aquarium regularly with an aquarium thermometer. Tropical fish do not like constant fluctuations in water temperature, so this is one of the key pieces of equipment you need to own.
Ensure Good Filtration Throughout Your Fish Tank
For a tropical fish tank, it is necessary to have a really good water filter that circulates the aquarium's water 3 to 4 times per hour. This helps to maintain good water circulation in the aquarium, boosting its movement. At Aquarium Kingdom, we have a wide selection of filters to suit most aquariums. For smaller-sized tanks, you can use an internal filter or hang-on filter. For bigger tanks, we recommend a hang-on filter or an external canister filter.
Choose Suitable Gravel to Aid Water Quality
Gravel is one of the few elements of the preparation process that is really simple. There are a plethora of different gravel and substrates to choose from, including natural and coloured gravels, quartz gravel, or aqua soils. Any colour or size is fine for tropical fish, however, we recommend finer-grain substrate, as it is easier to clean and vacuum gravel.
Other substrates, such as crushed coral sand and aragonite, can increase the overall pH of the water, which is perfect for cichlid or saltwater aquariums.
Decorate to Add Colour, Charm & Excitement
You might like to decorate your fish tank with aquarium ornaments, wood and rocks to give your fish something interesting to swim around. Live plants are a great option too because they not only look good but also add oxygen to your tank.
If you keep a community tropical fish tank, make sure any rocks you add to your tank are inert and will not buffer pH levels. Keep in mind rocks such as Texas Holey Rock and dead coral rock will increase the pH of the water. These are perfect for tanks with African Cichlids as they prefer higher pH levels but are not a good choice for community fish who prefer water with a pH of 7.0.
Cycle Your Aquarium Before Adding Any Fish
Adding fish to an aquarium can be an enjoyable and educational experience. However, there are a few things you should do before adding any fish to make sure the aquarium is in good condition and ready for them.
First, you need to cycle your tank. Cycling an aquarium is the process of adding beneficial bacteria to an empty tank in order to establish a healthy nitrogen cycle. This will help avoid dangerous ammonia and nitrite spikes in your water, and create a safe and healthy environment for your fish.
To cycle your tank we recommend adding biological supplements which contain live bacteria cultures to your water. Add small amounts daily for a week, then use a test kit to test for ammonia and nitrite. Once they are at zero, it is safe to add your fish.
For those that can’t wait and wish to add fish straight away, try using API Quick Start. This kickstarts the natural aquarium cycle and limits the toxic ammonia and nitrite in new tanks, allowing you to add fish right away.
Find the Right Tropical Fish Food & Feeding Style
Can tropical fish eat goldfish food? The answer is no. Goldfish food is designed for cold water fish, not tropical fish. In fact, different breeds of tropical fish require different foods depending on where they come from. Some fish need a diet that is high in protein, while others need one that is high in fibre. Some fish also require live food, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms, while others can be fed a balanced diet of flakes or pellets.
So, what is the best tropical fish food? The best food for your fish depends on its species and where it prefers to feed. Fish food comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Smaller tropical fish, like tetras and guppies, have smaller mouths, so these fish prefer smaller foods like micro pellets, granules or tropical flakes. Fish that feed in the middle of an aquarium prefer sinking pellets or granules. In comparison, catfish, loaches and corydoras prefer feeding near the bottom of the aquarium. So, these fish prefer sinking pellets, sinking wafers or tablets which sink right to the bottom of the tank. Larger exotic fish, like arowanas and freshwater stingrays, are best fed a carnivorous diet of larger sized foods.
Wondering how often you should feed your tropical fish? Aim to feed them small amounts of food they can consume within a minute. You can always add a little bit more if they eat it all quickly. Ultimately, you want to avoid overfeeding as any food left over can foul the water and harm the fish. So, scoop out any uneaten food after a few minutes. We find it best to feed your fish small amounts of food throughout the day rather than one big feed once a day.
Ongoing Care for Your Tropical Fish
As a first-time tropical fish owner, it is crucial you understand the commitment that comes with keeping your fish healthy. Besides the obvious task of feeding your fish, there are some things you’ll need to do quite regularly to ensure they are thriving under your care.
Get Ready for Regular Cleaning & Tank Maintenance
Clean the tank’s walls with an algae pad or floating magnet cleaner to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Then, regularly change the water by removing around 20–30% of the water every fortnight and replacing it with fresh water. Don’t forget to use a chlorine remover to remove chlorine and heavy metals from the tap water. You also need to keep your filters working efficiently, so check your filter and give the filter media a rinse in a bucket of water from the aquarium regularly too. Finally, remember to clean aquarium ornaments or other items inside the tank if necessary.
Always Have a List of Things to Check
As a tropical fish owner, there are several things you should keep an eye on including:
- Water temperature
- Water filter and pump functionality
- Algae buildup and grime in general
- Water chemistry (conduct weekly tests for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate)
- Your fish’s behaviour — if they start acting strangely, something might be wrong.
Provide Tropical Fish Health Care
Tropical fish are vulnerable to various diseases which can be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses. While some fish diseases can be treated with aquarium medications or even aquarium salt, others are fatal. In order to avoid fish disease, it is important to maintain healthy water conditions and to stock your tank with healthy fish.
One common thing to look out for is when fish start breathing at the surface of the tank. This can be a sign that there is not enough oxygen in the water, which can be caused by overcrowding, poor water quality, or low or high water temperatures.
Food refusal, damaged fins, irritated scales, white spots on the skin, mucus or cloudy eyes are other symptoms to watch out for.
Find Everything You Need at Aquarium Kingdom.
For the best possible tanks, decorations, cleaning equipment and fish food for tropical fish, pay us a visit at Aquarium Kingdom. As aquarium enthusiasts ourselves, we are also happy to answer any questions you have about caring for tropical fish. Browse our online store now and discover our extensive range today!