Freshwater Aquariums For Dummies
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To start and keep a freshwater aquarium, you need not only a tank, but the other equipment necessary to keep the water habitable for the fishy inhabitants. When you purchase those fish, make sure that you go to a good dealer and that you buy healthy fish. And when those healthy fish get sick, as some may, tap into the simple remedies in this Cheat Sheet to help restore them to health.

freshwater aquarium with fish © S-F/

Good freshwater fish for beginners

You’re starting a freshwater aquarium and need to know what kind of fish to stock it with. The fish in the following list are good species of freshwater fish for beginners:

  • Cherry barb
  • Chinese algae eater
  • Convict cichlid
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Goldfish
  • Guppy
  • Male betta
  • Molly
  • Platy
  • Swordtail
  • White clouds
  • Zebra danio

What to look for when buying freshwater fish

Buying fish for your freshwater aquarium is opportunity for a fun trip to the pet store, or an exciting search on the Internet. As you choose fish to take home, look at the physical characteristics in the following list to determine whether a fish is in good health:

  • Body color is rich, not faded or dull. The color should be complete and not missing in any areas for that species.
  • There are no open sores, visible ulcers, boils, or obvious skin problems such as peeling scales or blemishes.
  • Fins are long and flowing or short and erect for that species. The fish should not have any ragged, torn, or missing fins.
  • Scales are flat and smooth, not protruding away from the body.
  • The stomach is well rounded for the species, not sunken or concave.
  • Girth of the entire body is of normal size, not bloated or emaciated.
  • Visible excreta (fish waste) should be dark in color, not pale.
  • All the fins on the fish’s body should not be collapsed or completely clamped shut.
  • The eyes are clear, not cloudy, and they are not popping out of their sockets.
  • There are no visible parasites, such as ich or velvet.

What you need to set up a freshwater aquarium system

When you decide to set up a freshwater aquarium, you commit to getting a number of items aside from the fish. You need equipment and supplies to help keep the aquarium environment healthy for your fish. Use the following shopping list to consider when you head out to get your basic freshwater tank:

  • Tank and stand
  • Hood
  • Lighting
  • Gravel
  • Heater and thermometer
  • Filter systems
  • Air pump (if needed to power a filter or decoration)
  • Decorations
  • Food
  • Net
  • Water test kit
  • Declorinator

Common freshwater fish medications

Sometimes your freshwater fish get sick. If you notice signs of illness, try the following remedies — most of them are applications you use in the whole tank — to treat your sick fish.

  • Acriflavine: Treats ich and velvet, but may turn the water green.
  • Formalin: A bath-type treatment only, it shouldn’t be used in the main tank. A great remedy for parasites, it doesn’t work well on internal infections and can be very toxic, so make sure you wear gloves.
  • Malachite green: Use this wonderful medicine to treat velvet, fungus, and ich.
  • Methylene blue: Use it to treat ich, fungus, and velvet.
  • Penicillin: Treats bacterial infections and is nontoxic.
  • Salt: Common table salt is generally used to treat ich and other parasitic diseases.
  • Tetracycline: This antibiotic is great for bacterial infections and is nontoxic.

Characteristics of good fish dealers

As you shop for your aquarium’s tenants, look for a fish dealer who sells healthy fish and can offer information and assistance when you need it. A good fish dealer has the following characteristics:

  • Clean tanks and shop
  • Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable staff who answer your questions, who go out of their way to help, and who are familiar with equipment, system assembly, and needs of each fish
  • Large selection of aquarium equipment, food, medicine, and fish in stock
  • Free services, such as water testing
  • A guarantee on the fish and equipment they sell
  • Willingness to inform you where you can get something they don’t sell
  • Autopsies of dead fish to help determine cause of death and medication advice to prevent the need for autopsies
  • Genuine interest in you and your aquarium(s)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Madelaine Francis Heleine has been involved with aquariums and fish-keeping for more than 40 years. She has been a contributing writer and columnist for various magazines dealing with the aquatic world and has written several books about aquarium fish. Madelaine even enjoys exploring the underwater world firsthand as a scuba diver.

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