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Being successful with your freshwater aquarium

Updated on October 24, 2011


I've been raising fish ever since I was a kid. Seems like it's pretty much apart of me now. My dad taught me just about everything he knew about the hobby. It stuck to me like glue. I won't lie to you, I've had about two major failures in the hobby. That's apart of the learning process though. One of the failures occured when the white spot disease wiped out most of the tank occupants. The zebra danios and one Checkered Flag Australian Rainbow were the only survivors.

Anyways....I'm going to tell you some basic things you can do to make sure you have a thriving tropical aquarium. I'm not claiming to be an expert nor should I be regarded as one! :)

My aquarium as of July 11. More Platys keep emerging as you can see!
My aquarium as of July 11. More Platys keep emerging as you can see!
An older pic
An older pic
My aquarium
My aquarium

The basics

Before feeding your fish

After you've turned on the light, inspect the tank all over. Check to see if all the inhabitants are doing well. Check for anything usual like spots, rot or real fast breathing. If everything checks out, then feed your fish. I recommend this because it's better to catch something as early as possible.

Water changes

There's always been a huge debate over how much and how often water changes should take place. I either do 10-15% every week or I may do 20% every ten days. I use water from my tap and I always try to make sure the water is clean as possible. Before adding the water, I put the tap water conditioners and I add aquarium salt.(not all fish like aquarium salt, please consider this before the use of it) After about two months or so, I change about 40-50% of the water out. Why do I do this? Because of the water at the bottom; the water that was not changed from my other water changes. Some people may say that's a big no no, but I've done it before and have not had anything bad result from that. As I mentioned earlier, there is a big debate among hobbyists and scientist regarding what's actually best as far as "official water changes" are concerned and I have not noticed anything unusual by my practices.

Use of aquarium salt

Mollys and most other livebearers do appreciate aquarium salt. I'm not going to talk about brackish water fish in this hub. Why is the use of salt beneficial? It helps with the healing of injuries, improves gil function, reduces nitrites and helps combat against certain parasites. Please all the instructions carefully on the product FIRST before using it in your aquarium. It will harm live plants and can injure Cory Cats. If you're going to change the water, do it first THEN add the salt to it. Or you can do what I do at times, put some salt in your bucket or contain where you pour the water from. It may be a little better to stir the salt some before pouring it in the tank.

The recommended time to add salt is when you spot illness, nitrite build up, and/or changing the water. Some may recommend once or twice a month, which is fine but I've done the former and I have not noticed anything usual resulting from me adding salt in through those methods.

Observe the aquarium and enjoy...but don't overdo it!

Sure it's wonderful and fun to watch the fish in your aquarium but please do it in moderation. Also try not to walk too close in front of the tank. You're causing them stress which they definately do not need. Not only that, fish like Bala Sharks and Hatchet fish, can jump out the tank when startled.Try not to touch the tank as much as possible.

Check all your equipment

Check all your equipment to see if everything is working correctly and smoothly. Check all air pumps; replace any parts that make that loud, annoying buzzing noise. Failing that, replace the old pump with a new one. Some brands of air pumps do not offer repair kits which are cheaper to get than buying a brand new airpump. Replace any airstones that are too old and used up. Some dollar stores here in the states may sell cheap airstones. I purchased three round airstones for one dollar! Power filters can't be too clogged up or they will not work as well. I clean the power filter once every month and a half or so. I don't clean it too often because I don't want to eliminate any beneficial bacterias in there. Make sure any canister filters you have are working properly and clean. Clean off any dust on any equipment as well as the tank itself.

Glass cleaning

Make your aquarium glass isn't covered in algae, that's including the top glass if you are using glass covers. You may have fast algae growth because of the light you are using. It all depends but either way, make sure you keep them clean. I do keep a little bit of algae for my Black Mollys and for the trumpet snails I have.(I have a ton of them!) If you have glasstops, you have to also clean these as well. Reasons being you're going to have algae buildup which can get so massive it wil block the light coming into the tank. If you use aquarium salt like I do, you have to clean up the salt that has dried up on the glass as well as any equipment. Turn off your light, watch out for any electricity making contact with the water.Take off the glass, wash them very well(no soaps of course!),scrape off any algae and anything else on the glass. Dry the glass well and place it gently back on the tank. I have two glass covers on my tank. I remove one at a time, clean it, dry it up and then place it back. Some pet stores sell special glass cleaning liquid specially made for aquariums.


Never, never, ever and I mean ever....overfeed your fish!! If it happens, try to get excess food out. Accidents happen, yes...but you want to avoid this. Feed them what they can eat in a minute's time. Don't give into the fish coming up to surface wanting you to give them food! A lot of people think they should give them more food after they see this. They are not hungry! They do this because in their natural habitats they must search for the food as opposed to their owner readily giving them food every single day. Feeding them a variety of foods is very beneficial. I have noticed that feeding something like this is very goof for the fish, more in a particular, a community aquarium, freeze dried shrimp, flakes one day and the next day, freeze dried worms, shrimp and so on and so on. Be sure to read on what your fish like to eat before installing this practice.


Don't overstock your tank with too many fish. The general rule is one inch of per gallon. Please always check to see how big/long the fish will grow before adding new fish. It looks cool to have a lot of fish but you're doing harm than good. More ammonia, waste, more food to be given, more oxygen being used, filters have to work harder and the list just goes on. The general rule with adding fish is 1 inch for fish per gallon. In 10 gallons, you may have ten fish but remember to always consider how big a fish can grow no matter what size aquarium you may have.

Compatibility of species

Don't keep a Firemouth Cichlid with Gouramis! Aggressive fish and peaceful fish don't mesh. Many fish only belong with a species tank, some belong with fish their size, that can fend for themselves, many get aggressive when breeding, some can do well in a community aquarium, some are peaceful til they get mature and some prefer to be loners like quite a few bottom feeders. Do some research online or even pick up some books on aquariums and/or species of freshwater to find out what fish are compatible with one another.


Make sure your lighting is in working order. Check for any flickering; it may be just a simple case of the bulbs not tightly in socket. If the bulbs are going out,replace them with new ones. Some lights generate more heat than others so with that in mind, you may have to add water to the tank more often to keep the right amount of water in. Many newbies to the hobby don't think of this which is understandable. They don't quite see the whole picture of maintaining an aquarium, regardless of the size. Make sure no water gets in the lighting. Some lightstrips have splashguards some don't. If I had a light system with a splashguard, I still would be sure to clean up and dry up whatever water is there.


I've been keeping fish for many many years and I've gone through trial and error in the hobby. I do not claim to be an expert, but I feel I know enough to share my knowledge on the freshwater keeping hobby to ensure the same success as I have add. Above are my practices which haven't let me down. My fish are doing so well, that they are reproducing rapidly and/or growing. As one person who saw my aquarium on Facebook said, "Wow looks like you got some happy and thriving fish in there!" With many areas of life, don't ever be afraid to fail, we all make mistakes.I wish everyone in the hobby all the best and I hope more people get into the hobby! Cheers!

August 2011, Australian Checkered Flag Rainbowns, Yellow Mickey Mouse Platys, Boesemani Rainbow
August 2011, Australian Checkered Flag Rainbowns, Yellow Mickey Mouse Platys, Boesemani Rainbow | Source
Checkered  Flag Rainbows and one Boesemani Rainbow (Aug. 2011)
Checkered Flag Rainbows and one Boesemani Rainbow (Aug. 2011)

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    • natures47friend profile image


      6 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Great information. I keep cold water goldfish at present...power know. When I was in Brisbane we had a tropical tank which did not need a heater. I would go on the bus to the pet store and bring back fish in a bag. The odd one died. If dirty plates were left on the bench (rarely) there would be maggots on the floor heading to the windows.....gross, but I scooped them up and put them in the tank.


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