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Beginner's Circle This forum is dedicated to helping people new to the hobby. If you need help, this is your starting point.

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Old 04-04-2008, 06:53 AM   #1
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Default So you want to keep fish in an aquarium?

Hey everyone,

I am starting an article to help out beginners. Please edit and fill in as you see fit. This is not a comprehensive beginner's guide, just to raise a few questions for anyone interested in starting fish keeping.


Lasted edited: April 11, 2008
Added 1A: Nitrogen Cycle, bit about aquarium magazines, 5A: Size of fish tank, 5B: List of standard equipment

You happen to be at your local fish store or someone's business/home and see some fish in an aquarium. All of a sudden you have this urge to keep these swimming creatures as well. You have caught the fishkeeping bug!

Before diving in head first, there are a couple of things you have to keep in mind that will help you out very nicely:

1. How committed are you to owning and caring for these animals?

Most people who get started into the hobby end up quitting very soon. My unsubstantiated guess is that the majority quit within the first year.

This not only applies to keeping fish, but all animals that you take ownership of. There is a level of commitment and responsibility to properly care for these animals.

This hobby is not extremely difficult, but it takes time and commitment to learn about how to care for the fish. If you feel you do not have the resources/time to do this, then maybe it's a good idea to wait until you are.

1A. LEARN ABOUT THE NITROGEN CYCLE. All water animals need to be in a 'cycled' tank.

Essentially all water animals that will dwell in your aquarium (fish, shrimp, crab, turtle, newt, frog, etc) produce waste. Part of the waste is ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic and is very harmful to these water animals if allowed to build up in concentration. Please see: before continuing.

Understand the nitrogen cycle thoroughly before reading any further.

2. Why can't I buy the fish now?

So now you have committed to keeping the fish for the long haul. You have a particular fish that interests you. The most important decision you will ever make is resist impulse buying.

Ask any experienced hobbyist anywhere and they will tell you the same thing. Why?

Different fishes have different requirements. That little cute goldfish you saw at the fish store last year may have looked perfect in your little fish tank at the time, but nobody ever told you that he was a poop machine and would grow so big! There are tons of other examples of impulse fish buys.

Go home and do you research on the fish you wish to keep. What are its living requirements? What is its full adult size? Can it be kept with other fish or is it better to keep it alone? Does it prefer companions of the same species? What kind of water does it prefer?

Here is a good list showing good and bad beginner fish:

3. Where do you go to find information and do your research?

Internet: Nowadays the main source of the most up-to-date and current information on fish care is found on the Internet. Forums like this one is the most popular way to learn about the hobby and ask questions. One downside to this is that anybody can say anything. There is a lot of valid, helpful and correct advice on the Internet, but unfortunately just as much bad and misleading advice. You have to be careful and diligent in making sure the general consensus agrees. (In fact, read more than one beginner's guide to fishkeeping!)

Books: You can also go to the library to pick up some books on fish care. The information contained may be outdated though. What was common practice at the time the book was published may not be the best way to do something today. Nevertheless, one advantage is that before they are published, they have to go through stringent editing, at least most of the time. So what is written in books is usually valid and correct, at least at the time.

Fish stores: I would say you have to be careful of seeking advice from staff members at the fish store. There are some very great fish stores and knowledgeable staff, but many fish stores often give bad, biased advice. Not being pessimistic here, but this seems to be the case very often.

Aquarium Magazines: You can find these at your local book store. They contain a lot of great pictures / articles / insight into the hobby and appeal to seasoned hobbyists and beginners alike.

Fish Clubs: What better place to ask questions than a place full of fish-minded people? You get excellent advice and make some new friends in the process. You are also connected to many hobbyists who might be able to help you in many ways. Drop byyour local fish club to see for yourself!

4. Okay, I have done the proper planning and preparation, what now?

Take your time to set up your aquarium before adding fish. Fishkeeping is all about patience and planning. In aquariums, good things never happen fast, only bad things do. In the end, you should have fun and ask lots of questions! This hobby is very challenging but also very rewarding.

5A. What size of an aquarium should I get?

The best answer for recommended aquarium size is to get the biggest aquarium your budget can allow. The only downside to a larger tank is the cost. Larger tank = larger equipment = more $$$. Otherwise, larger tanks offer far more stability as opposed to smaller tanks and actually makes fish-keeping a lot easier.

For example, temperature fluctuations are a lot smaller in larger tanks because of the high heat-retention property that water has. Larger tanks are more forgiving of potential problems and take longer to have an adverse effect on these problems. A dead fish in a small tank will foul the water much more quickly than in a larger tank. This gives you more time to react and solve the problem before the water quality deteriorates.

Another factor to consider is the water surface area to depth ratio: Water/air exchange means that the concentration of different dissolved gases in the water is always in equilibrium with the atmosphere's different gases. As the fish breathes in oxygen, the dissolved oxygen concentration in the water decreases. To replenish this, you will good water/air surface area to allow oxygen in the air to enter the water. Otherwise the fish may have a hard time breathing with the lack of oxygen in the water. Some fish like gouarmies, bettas and corydoras have adapted to living in habitats with very little oxygen in the water, but most other fish need plenty of oxygen in the water to survive. In deep tanks with less water surface area to tank depth, oxygen concentrations in the water may be insufficient without additional aeration.

5B. What equipment should I get?

Here is a standard list of equipment that you will need:
- Filter
- Heater (if applicable)
- Thermometer
- Lights
- Decor/Gravel/substrate (Please refrain from 'clown puke' gravel and choose more natural looking gravel/decor.)
- Glass/acrylic cover (optional)
- Handy guide to fish book (if you're going to be spending all this money on equipment, might as well have a handy guide to help you answer any immediate questions)
- Aquarium stand
- Test kits (Optional, but it sure comes in handy when in doubt and first starting out to monitor tank cycling. Most basic ones you will need are pH, ammonia, nitrite and ammonia. However, do not worry too much about 'ideal' water parameters and adjusting it. The most important thing is stable water parameters (stable pH, ammonia and nitrite = 0.)
- Water bucket used only for aquariums (Very important to use a water bucket designated for aquarium-use only, you do not want to get it mixed up with other water buckets with soap/detergents/chemicals in it).
- Water siphon
- Fish net

Last edited by dekstr; 04-21-2008 at 05:20 AM..
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Old 04-04-2008, 07:24 AM   #2
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Great idea just like to add that magazines are a great source for information as they are up to date and the big book stores like Chapters carries quite a good selection,most have a section for people new to the hobby. Pat.
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Old 04-04-2008, 07:40 AM   #3
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not bad so far I think you need to get into cycling though. Many new fish keepers know absolutely nothing about cycling. I think that it's almost more important than species (to a point) because even the most hardy fish species will be injured or killed in an uncycled tank!!

It's a shame that so many people jump into this hobby unawares. That's the problem...many people like a cute fish and just go out and buy it without even trying to read anything about it.

Or there are people like my dad and I. I wanted some fish, so he took me to a *a fish store* in the late 80s (I think I was about 8 or 9 at the time) and asked an employee what a good starter tank would be. Well, we left with a 5 gallon aquarium setup (with one of those corner sponge and charcoal filters..I can't remember if there was even a heater!) and a pleco, a few neons, some orange fish (they must have been platies) and an angel!! Horrible that someone you'd think would know his poop about fishkeeping (a lfs employee) would do that.

So keep up the good work! It's great that you're trying to spread knowledge about successful fishkeeping!

(wow I'm long-winded)
2.5 gallon - Betta, zebra nerite snail

37 gallon, planted - 3 tiger barbs, 3 green tiger barbs, 3 albino tiger barbs
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Old 04-04-2008, 07:51 AM   #4
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thats reallly good people who r begginers will appreciate this
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Old 04-05-2008, 03:53 PM   #5
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i think the title should have been
"So You Want To Keep Fish in A Glass Box"
'And yes, Bigger is always Better ; )'
My former glory: 130g Planted Low Tech Jungle Journal
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Old 04-11-2008, 02:45 AM   #6
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I think it should be mentioned for the absolute new person that ALL water living animals need a cycled tank.

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Old 10-04-2008, 10:14 PM   #7
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I think details on fishless cycling should be in this article. In particular, the killer tip is "used filter media from a cycled tank". I've always thought that mom and pop fish shops should have "biomass cubes" for sale. Take the filter sponge of a nicely juiced-up giant HOB filter and slice it up into sections. Send it home in a baggy just like the fish. Tank, one fish (hardy one, such as a danio), cube of biofilter goodness, and water-dechlorinator and you're good. You don't need to read 200 pages. You can probably even do it all in one day.

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Old 05-12-2009, 07:10 AM   #8
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I feel it should be mentioned that while books do eventually become out of date, good books are updated frequently for this reason. Make sure you're reading the most current edition. You can't blame a book for being wrong if you read an old copy of it.

Furthermore, I think it should be noted that good, up to date books are a better and more complete source of information than the internet, fish stores, magazines, and aquarium clubs combined. Information in a book is often gathered by a scientist or researcher. Information on a website is often gathered from a book. Information from a pet store is often gathered off the internet by a highschool student. You see where I'm going with this...

I can't comment on fish clubs or magazines directly, but I can assure you that their most informed members/writers probably didn't acquire all that information without seriously reading and rereading some pretty thick books.

Volume 1 of the Baensch Aquarium Atlas will answer probably about 90-100% of all questions a beginner will ask, and many questions asked by more experienced keepers. This is by no means the only book worth reading, but it's easily a strong recommendation for a 'must have' general purpose go-to book and will be valued by any aquarist who doesn't already have a collection of books available to them.
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Old 06-14-2009, 01:13 PM   #9
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Maybe you should mention some beginner fish.

My list:


or what I could think of...
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Old 06-14-2009, 04:42 PM   #10
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Mollies are often called a beginner fish, as are Goldfish, but I believe those are the two that should not be on the beginner list.

At least, unless (a) the person caring for them is interested in reading and learning a bit first, and (b) the person is (in the case of Goldfish) willing to do more than put them in a bowl.

I think Guppies, Platies, Swords, and Danios are the hardiest of beginner fish. Made of really-hard-to-kill.

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