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The Basics: Starting a Freshwater Aquarium, Part 1

Congratulations! You have decided to enter the interesting world of tropical fish-keeping. It is a fascinating hobby and a rewarding pastime. The kinds of fish you can acquire are varied as well as the type of aquariums you can own. Let's explore some of the points you will need to consider as you begin to set up your first aquarium. The choices are many and you will find getting started will be more enjoyable with a few basics under your belt. Selecting a Tank The first choice you will have is whether to purchase a glass or acrylic aquarium. Simply put, glass is less expensive, will be scratch resistant and less likely to discolor; acrylic is more expensive but will be stronger and less likely to leak. Acrylic tanks can also be made into many different configurations with minimal seams relative to glass. Another thing to consider is the aquarium size. Various fish have specific volume requirements. A good example of this is the African cichlid. They are aggressive fish and need more water volume due to territory establishment. The more territory you provide the less territory issues you will have. Another good example of a fish with atypical needs is a goldfish. They demand either higher volumes of water or more frequent water changes due to their high ammonia release. Spending some time planning your fish community can help insure that you have purchased the right aquarium. More General Guidelines: 1) Typically both community and most semi-aggressive fish will require one gallon of water to one square inch of fish. 2) Goldfish will need a bigger space/ larger water volume because they grow rapidly; they also have a high ammonia production. They typically need five gallons per fish even at a smaller size (approximately one inch in length) due to their ammonia production. This volume demand will increase with their growth (which is rapid) so plan accordingly. If you do not give them the proper water volume you will be doing many water changes and will be purchasing water additives to balance your goldfish's environment. 3) Most cichlids typically require 5-7 gallons per fish and the correct environment (hiding spaces, caves, etc.). The areas should be created to reduce territory aggression. 4) Betta fish are less demanding when it comes to environmental needs like water volume and quality. Also, bettas can live in environments with lower oxygenation due to their labyrinth organ which allows them to take oxygen directly from the surface. Fishlady Note: This is only meant to be a general guideline. You must research the particular needs of the fish you wish to keep. Remember, like any pet you control and are responsible for their environment. Their lives are literally in your hands! Tank Placement and Set-Up Now that you have selected your tank, you need to decide where it should be placed. The tank should not be placed in direct sunlight, you will find if you do this you'll have too much heat generating light on the tank and a green algae growth will appear. It is also best not to place the tank where there are drafts; this will cause temperature fluctuations that can harm your fish by creating stress and illness. Your tank should be located near a grounded electrical outlet in order to run the heater, canopy and filtration system. Tanks need a stand. When choosing a stand, keep in mind that 1 gallon of water weighs 8.5 pounds;

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