If you’ve decided to get a fish for a pet, then you are going to need an aquarium. However, choosing an aquarium is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. In this post, we will take you through everything you need to know when it comes to choosing an aquarium and how to keep it right from pH levels to how to get rid of snails in an aquarium. Once armed with these facts, all you need to do is use our ‘aquarium shops near me’ tool below and head out to choose your new showpiece.
- Top 7 Tips: How to choose an aquarium
- How to look after your aquarium
- What causes high pH in aquarium?
- How to lower pH in an aquarium
- How to raise pH in an aquarium
- How to get nitrates down in aquarium
- How to get rid of snails in aquarium
Top 7 Tips: How to choose an aquarium
Whether you’ve popped into your local store or had a browse online you’ll have noticed that there is an abundance of aquariums to choose from. But how can you see the wood for the trees? Well, here are 5 top tips when it comes to picking the right aquarium for you.
#1 Pick where you are going to put it first
First things first, you need to know what spaces you have that are going to be suitable for an aquarium. The space you choose should be:
- kept out of direct sunlight as this encourages algae growth;
- kept away from heaters as these can make water temperature harder to control;
- big enough – if a fish tank has 10 gallons or more then it is better to use with a dedicated aquarium stand;
- strong enough – A gallon of freshwater weighs 8.3 pounds at 70 Degrees Fahrenheit so even a relatively small 10-gallon tank will weigh 100 pounds meaning you need whatever you put it on to be able to hold it;
- near to an electrical outlet to power the water filter, heating, and lighting;
#2 Pick a bigger tank
If you’re new to the aquarium game, then you might think it makes sense to go for the small tank to begin with. However, the smaller the tank, the more frequently you are going to need to clean it out so, perhaps conversely to what you may have intuited, a larger fish tank will actually mean less work for you.
Remember, with fish in, your aquarium is going to fill up with fish waste. The build-up of this waste happens faster in a smaller tank than a larger one making it go cloudy quicker. This waste also produces chemicals toxic to your fish when it starts to break down so as a novice, its better to go for a bigger tank to make it easier to keep your fish alive.
#3 Decide if the tank or the fish type matters more to you
If you’ve checked out your house for the right space using the advice in tips 1 and 2 and had look online on down your local store using the measurements of your space, then you might already have found the perfect tank. However, fish tank size and shape will ultimately define what fish you can keep. You have to decide whether option a) or option b) is right for you:
option a) Choose the tank and stock it with the recommended fish for the tank
option b) Choose the fish you want to stock then find a suitable aquarium
#4 Pick a tank with a larger opening
Whilst vertical tanks can look great, even if they are huge, you are going to restrict the number of fish you can keep because of the limited opening they have in comparison to horizontal tanks. This is because oxygen enters your tank through the opening, so a larger surface area where the water meets the air means more oxygen in your tank allowing for more fish. Whilst an air stone can draw in more oxygen, if possible, go a tank with a larger opening if you want to keep lots of fish in your tank.
#5 Pick a good aquarium gravel or substrate
If you’ve ever seen an aquarium, be that in someone’s home or at a local attraction, you’ll have noticed that they always seem to be lined with some form of gravel. Whilst this has the benefit of making the tank more attractive, it actually serves more important purposes. Indeed, aquarium gravel provides a beneficial home for bacteria to develop which actually consume some f the fish waste, helping to keep the tank cleaner for longer and keep your fish healthy.
The gravel also provides a more pleasant environment for your fish as some fish like to burrow and hide away and enough base gravel allows them to do this. The gravel also reduces stressful reflection in the tank for your fish. You can also adjust PH balance and nitrates levels with a good substrate. Interestingly, you may also create space for some fish eggs to hatch as larger substrates can protect eggs from their own parents eating them!
#6 Pick the right decoration for your fish tank
Just lobbing your fish in a tank full of gravel is not going to see you making the most of your aquarium or being fair to the fish you keep. Make sure there is some form of underwater structure for them so the non-burrowing fish can hide away when they want to (no one likes to be on display all the time). This can include cave-like rocks and real-life or fake plants or any other features that might tickle your fancy – a sunken pirate ship perhaps?
#7 Choose your fish carefully
Check out our ‘tropical fish store near me’ store finder above to find your nearest store and head on down there. Larger aquarium or pet stores will introduce you to an incredible variety of exciting fish with many stores housing more than 200 species for you to pick from. Remember to only pick fish that are suitable for your specific aquarium, including size and shape of tank, number of fish you want in it vs opening size, and appropriate habitat.
You’ll also want to make sure the fish you choose isn’t going to eat any of the other fish in your tank! As your tank grows in fish numbers and types, you’ll also need to ensure they all like the same sort of water as different fish do better in hard, alkaline, soft or acid water types and whilst you can adjust these levels, you cannot adjust them individually for fish in the same tank!
How to look after your aquarium
So now you know everything you need to pick the right aquarium and get your fish set up in it, but what do you need to do to keep your aquarium healthy? Here we outline the major ways you need to monitor your water chemistry to ensure your fish stay safe and other nuts and bolts managing your aquarium.
What causes high pH in aquarium?
pH measures whether water is acid, neutral or alkaline. The scale runs from 1-14 with 1-6 being acid, 7 being neutral, and 8-14 being alkaline. Because pH is measured on a logarithmic scale, each unit of change on the scale can cause massive effects on your fishes health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, changes in pH levels are not visible to the naked eye and you will need to test your water regularly if you don’t want unexpected dead fish on your hands. If you notice your fish doing any of the following, you should definitely check the pH level:
- If they show signs of irritation e.g. jumping, shimmying, twitching, flicking against objects;
- If they spend lots of time at the surface (they are searching for air not being given to them in the tank);
- If they change color – they may go a darker color or become very pale, and;
- If you notice rapid gill movement.
So what should you do if you notice something is up with your pH levels? Below we will outline the simple steps you can take to resolve chemical imbalances in your water.
How to lower pH in an aquarium
If your water readings are 8 or above then your water is heading into alkaline territory and, depending on your fish (e.g. Paradise Fish, African Cichlids, and Swordtails etc. all thrive in alkaline or hard water), you probably want to get that level back down to neutral. A good way to achieve this gradually is by using something called peat moss. However, even though this can be placed in a mesh bag in your filter, there will be some temporary discoloration. This clears up given time and can be sped up using carbon tablets.
If peat moss and discoloration don’t float your boat, then there are a few other ways to bring pH levels down in aquariums. These are:
- Reducing the aeration levels in the aquarium (e.g. by reducing the opening size);
- If you have live plants in your aquarium, you can also increase CO2 levels to bring down the pH level;
- Adding distilled or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water, and;
- Adding some pieces of driftwood into your tank.
How to raise pH in an aquarium
If you are getting readings below 7, then your tank water is slipping into acidic territory and, depending on your fish (Tetras, Corydoras, Angelfish etc. like more acidic, or so-called soft, water), you will probably want to know how to increase the pH in the aquarium. One easy way to raise the pH levels in your aquarium is simply by popping in a spoonful of baking soda for every 5 gallons of water in your tank.
This approach helps to ensure the change happens incrementally as you do not want to implement rapid changes as this will harm your fish’s health. However, you should still remove your fish from the tank before you start raising the pH levels. You may need to do this multiple times but don’t be tempted to double the dose of baking soda to speed up the process as a spike in pH levels will likely kill your fish.
Other natural ways to raise aquarium pH levels are:
- Adding some crushed corals – the high calcium carbonate levels of these shells and bones gradually increase pH levels;
- Adding Dolomite chips – rich in calcium and magnesium, these can be added to your base ravel to help raise pH levels.
- Adding limestone gravel – limestone gravel is also rich in calcium carbonate which helps to raise pH levels. This is also suitable in freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
- Adding Macroalgae – this is actually a plant or a large aquatic photosynthetic plant that does not require the use of a microscope for you to see it. They come in all sorts of colors so can add to the seabed scene in your tank whilst also helping to raise pH levels and remove unwanted algae from building up. You may have to cut these down to size every now and again though if they start to take over your tank.
How to get nitrates down in aquarium
So now you know about pH levels you are almost there, but you also need to know how to lower nitrates in an aquarium. In natural water, nitrate levels are very low. However, in tanks, even with regular water changes, nitrates can build up quickly and harm your fish as tap water tends to contain nitrates. This is also a particular issue in saltwater aquariums and marine invertebrates. The following methods are some of the best ways t remove nitrates from an aquarium:
- In freshwater aquariums you can add live plants as these will draw out the nitrates;
- Reduce the number of fish in the tank as a lot of the nitrates build up from fish waste;
- Feed your fish less – overfeeding can quickly lead to a spike in nitrates, and;
- Use a nitrate remover – these can be bought at any good pet store.
How to get rid of snails in aquarium
Finally, if you want to run a healthy aquarium, you need to know how to get rid of snails in your fish tank. Unfortunately, when we take steps to adjust pH and nitrate levels we can sometimes inadvertently bring these little critters into our tanks with live plants often the prime culprits. Unfortunately, a single snail can soon lead to a large population as molluscks reproduce rapidly. Here are 4 ways to get rid of snails from an aquarium:
- Use a copper sulfate to kill the snails – this chemical is fish-safe if the instructions on the packet are followed correctly. Make sure to remove the dead snails if you take this route;
- Put snail predators in your tank – scavenger fish are good for this job as are clown, zebra and dwarf chain loaches;
- Put snail traps in your tank – if killing the snails seems a bit unethical to you, then you can actually by humane snail traps for aquariums.
- Pick out the snails by hand – if you’re not squeamish, this can be a very effective method and doesn’t require snailicide.
Picking the right aquarium and making it the perfect habitat for your favorite fish can be fun but if we are not careful, this perfect environment can quickly become uninhabitable for our fishy friends. Follow the advice in this article and make sure to get advice from your local aquarium whenever taking on a new fish and you’ll be sure to keep your fish happy.