Believe it or not, you can’t simply buy a fish tank and throw your fish in it when you get home. Well, you can’t if you care about the residents in it and don’t want to be continually spending money on fish, filter media and cleaning products to keep your tank in a good condition.
At least 80% of fish tank owners don’t know about water cycling and how that effects your tank-life.
Would you believe me if I told you that one of my tanks hasn’t needed algae-fighting, deep cleaning or had water in any other colour than crystal clear in over 2-years.
This is only because of my initial, and basic, water cycling.
So, where to Start?
Owning fish is a lot harder in the short term than owning a dog. Yes, your puppy will need feeding, walking and its hair clipping every now and again.
Your fish, on the other hand, are going to need a lot of attention even before you buy them, but they won’t need walking though, thankfully.
Firstly, choose a tank – I suggest more than 100 litres minimum, smaller tanks are harder to cycle and are not fair on the fish. If you’re looking for more than a few minnows in your tank, you’ll need several hundred litres.
Then you’ll need to choose your decorations, your best bet is to use gravel for the bottom and a mixture of textured rocks, wood and real plants to maximise your chances of creating good water quality.
Gravel has a large surface area and is a breeding ground for good bacteria – large rocks are similar. Whilst plants will naturally filter your water and suck up some of the bad bacteria that can’t be avoided.
So, fill your tank with your decorations and then follow that with water and position everything properly – this includes the filter, lights and pumps for circulation and flow.
Now your Hard work Begins.
As this is a guide for beginners, I’m going to steer clear of ph, nitrate and nitrites and keep it really simple.
The easiest way to filter your tank without needing any technical expertise is to get a hard-wearing fish, such as a plec or goldfish, and add only them to the tank.
Let them swim around like a king with no other fish getting in their way and feed them a little too much as it will create some bad bacteria as it ferments and dissolves.
Then, every other day, empty 30% of the water, replace with dechlorinated new tap water. Rinse and repeat for a month. You’ll be your fish’s hero.
It sounds simple, it really is, I’ve done both this, and the scientific methods of cycling tanks and this method is almost fool-proof.
From there start adding fish slowly, 1 or 2 at a time and leave at least a week between new additions.
Every time you add fish, do the 30% trick for a week after each fish, then if you get any sign of decolouration in the water, algae on the rocks or sides of the tank, then keep up the water changes.
It will soon clear and you’ll be left with a glorious clear fish tank for years. From there do a 50% water change every 6-months or so and clean the filter out every alternate 6-months (never at the same time).
One final tip, clean your filter media out with tank water too, not tap.