- What sort of tank do I need?
- How many fish can I keep in my tank?
- Where is the best place to put my tank?
- What equipment will I need for my aquarium?
- Decorating your aquarium
- Aquatic plants
Keeping fish as pets in your own aquarium is a fascinating hobby. There are many beautiful fish to choose from – as well as weird and wonderful ones. Designing the habitat for your aquarium can be great fun and you can be as creative as you like, constructing ship wrecks, ruins and reefs for your fish to find a home in. Fish as pets have lots of advantages: they are relatively easy to care for, low maintenance and don't trigger allergic reactions. Many people find watching fish swimming in an aquarium therapeutic and their vibrant range of colours and patterns are certainly captivating!
Petstop supply a wide selection of both cold water and tropical fish and our trained staff are available to give you advice on keeping fish as pets and the equipment you'll need. Our range of tanks start at 15 litres and range up to 230 litres as well as starter kits for beginners that contain all the essential equipment for your first tank. Our check list below will ensure that you have everything you need to get started.
Heater (for tropical fish)
Air pump (optional)
Substrate (gravel, glass beads, sand)
Rocks, pebbles, driftwood
Tanks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and cater for both cold water and tropical fish. They are made from tough acrylic or strong glass and the size of your tank depends on what types of fish you'd like to keep, how many of them and where you plan to put the tank in your home.
Larger tanks have more stable temperatures and water chemistry which means that your fish will be in a healthier environment. Another benefit of a large tank is that your fish are more likely to get on with each other as they don't have to compete for space.
Do I need a base or a stand?
Tanks are very heavy when filled with water and a proper aquarium stand, base or cabinet is essential. You need one that has been built strong enough to hold the weight of your tank and there are plenty of designs available. Purpose built stands and bases are also resistant to water damage.
Do I need a hood or cover?
Keeping a hood or cover on your tank helps to keep humidity levels down and decrease the amount of water you need to replace due to evaporation. They also shield the water from dust and dirt and prevent fish from jumping out of the tank. Hoods are also designed to accommodate filters, heating and lighting equipment so that everything is neatly contained.
Your fish will need room to live happily together so you need to work out how many fish you can keep in your tank without overcrowding. Too many fish can pollute the tank with high levels of harmful chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite, which can poison the fish.
The general rule is to allow 2.5cm (1 inch) of fish to 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water. If you have bought young fish to stock your tank with remember they will grow in size so check what their adult size will be.
As tanks are heavy you need a spot that is stable and level to locate your tank in. A tank that is too close to a sunny window can suffer problems with increased algae growth. The tank should be away from hot and cold spots so don't place it too close to radiators or in a direct draught. You will also need an electric socket nearby as you will need to plug in your equipment such as filters and lighting.
Do I need a heater?
If you'd like to keep tropical fish you'll need a heater as these fish live in warm water.
- Ideally the water temperature should be between 23 - 28°C (74 – 82ºF) and the size (in watts) of your heater will depend on the size of your fish tank.
- Heaters have thermostats built into them so that they will switch off when the temperature in the aquarium is at the level you have set.
- If you have a very large tank (over 160 litres) you could put 2 heaters at either end to keep an even temperature throughout the water.
- If you are not sure what size of heater you will need our staff will be able to help you in store.
Do I need lighting?
Lighting your aquarium gives your fish a sense of day and night and also helps to display their vibrant colours.
- If you have aquatic plants in your tank they will need lighting to grow and thrive.
- Lighting should be on for around 10 hours a day and you can use a timer to set the lights to the hours you need.
- There are several types of lighting tubes, bulbs and units available and our staff will be able to advise you as to which would suit your tank best.
Do I need a filter?
You will need a filter system for your tank to keep the water clean. Filters remove the waste products from the fish, uneaten food and decaying aquatic plant matter. If the water is left unfiltered the waste will build up to toxic levels and your fish will become sick. Filters also enrich the water with oxygen by causing ripples which break the surface of the water. If you spot a white or green hazy cloud in the tank this is a Bacterial or Algae Bloom and your filter will not be able to remove this. Such blooms can be caused by over feeding causing uneaten food to decay in the tank. Water changes, algae cleaning and gravel vacuuming can help to treat and prevent blooms.
There are 3 different types of filters you can use:
- Under Gravel Filters – (fitted under the gravel). You will need an air pump to run your under gravel filter. Although effective these can cause difficulties when you clean them as you disturb the fish and are not recommended if you are growing aquatic plants.
- Internal Power Filters - (submerged under the water in the tank). These give a rapid turn over of water but are difficult to hide in the tank.
- External Power Filters (situated outside the tank). These can be cleaned without disturbing the fish, don't take up any tank space and some also have heaters installed.
Filters use different methods of cleaning the water, sometimes in combination with each other:
- Mechanical (filtering through nylon floss or synthetic foam)
- Biological (uses beneficial bacteria to break down toxic waste to harmless substances). Fish excrete Ammonia into the water and this is toxic. Nitrifying bacteria need to build up in the tank to convert the Ammonia into Nitrite (which is also toxic to fish). As different sorts of bacteria begin to grow in the tank the Nitrite (NO2) is then converted to more harmless Nitrates (NO3). Biological filters contain the beneficial bacteria (Nitrobacter and Nitrosomona) that can break down Ammonia and Nitrates and prevent your fish from becoming poisoned.
- Chemical (uses carbon to clear the water or ammo rocks to absorb ammonia)
Do I need an air pump?
Air pumps create hundreds of little bubbles which help to oxygenate the water as each bubble increases the surface area allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to diffuse. Air pumps circulate the oxygen vertically around the tank and help aerate your aquarium water. Filters don't aerate in the same way as they break the surface of the water creating ripples. This increases the surface area of the aquarium water which allows for diffusion of gasses into and from the atmosphere.
Air pumps can also be used for visual effect – they can be attached to airstones, bubble wands and ornaments (treasure chests or divers) to make streams of rising bubbles which some fish like to swim amongst.
Once you have chosen your tank and equipment you will need to decorate your aquarium. This is your chance to get creative! Your fish will need nooks and crannies to hide in and it's a good idea to find out what sort of environment your fish would have lived in their natural environment. Some fish like to peep out of caves, others like to swim in little shoals protected by rocky outcrops and some will flit in and out of holes in driftwood.
Petstop have a wide range of substrates (gravels, coloured glass or sand), pebbles, rocks, driftwood, artificial plants and aquatic ornaments to set up the habitat for your fish. Shop bought items will be safe for your fish as they have been pretreated and will not release toxic chemicals into the water.
Growing live aquatic plants can be challenging if you are a beginner and you might like to consider choosing a range of artificial plants instead. However aquatic plants can provide wonderful scenery in your aquarium as well as giving your fish a place to hide and spawn.
- Some fish like to eat certain plants so you'll need to check if your fish belong in this category lest your prized specimens end up nibbled.
- Live plants use up carbon dioxide and give off oxygen during the day but at night this process is reversed. If you have a lot of plants in your aquarium you might find running an airstone at night helps keep the oxygen balance from being depleted.
- Aquatic plants can also help the habitat in your aquarium as they harbour bacteria that breakdown waste from the fish but they can also harbour water snails or parasites.