Freshwater Fish Care


At least a 10-gallon tank. The bigger, the better. Small tanks need frequent water exchanges to keep fish healthy.

Gravel – for decoration only. Under gravel filters don’t work well. We recommend Hang on Back Filters or Canister Filters However all type of filtration can be used you just may have to adjust your maintenance schedule accordingly.

Rocks and other tank decorations – make sure they are smooth with no sharp edges. Non porus decorations are easier to clean and disinfect.

Filter types: Box Filters or Outside Filters – use 2 filters (can be the same kind), if possible to keep one running while the other is being cleaned. A good filter has three parts:

Mechanical (for example, floss or pad to trap particles)

Chemical (for example, carbon to clean impurities)

Biological (high surface area for growing bacteria that remove ammonia, nitrite from water like bio-wheels, bio-balls, etc.).

Note: It is OK and you should clean/replace the mechanical and chemical filters. But, once bacteria are established (about 3-6 weeks), do not do anything to harm the bacterial component of the filter. Alternate cleaning each filter to keep bacterial colonies healthy and maintain good oxygen and water quality.

Add one or more aerators or bubblers to circulate water and keep oxygen levels up.  I you have adequate filtration and break  the surface of the water  you should have plenty of oxygen.   Implementing air is always suggested but not required.

Aquarium heater and thermometer

Fish food

Algae scraper (use special tools for acrylic tanks)


Water testing kits

Water conditioner – multi-purpose to remove ammonia, nitrite, chlorine/chloramines is best

Aquarium cover/light fixture (fluorescent works best for showing off your fish) – optional unless you’re keeping live plant

Where to place an Aquarium 

Set your tank on sturdy table, stand or counter

Never put your tank in direct sunlight. This causes algae growth

Don’t put your tank beside heating or cooling vents


Preparing Your Tank

Set up your tank. Ideally, you should set up a smaller quarantine tank, too so you can isolate sick fish to treat.

Rinse gravel with clean water before adding it to tank. Empty bottoms with a hiding place work best for quarantine tanks.

Set up the filtration system, etc. Quarantine tanks may only need a bubbler since they are temporary, and daily water exchanges can be done to keep water safe for fish. Fill your tank with clean tap or well water.

Add a chemical neutralizer from an aquarium store. Find out the needs of any fish you plan to add to your tank. Test your water before you buy fish to make sure the water is right for your fish. Choose fish that can live in the water you have. Adjusted pH and water hardness is hard to maintain unless you are very experienced.


Adding Your Fish

It’s best to start with four to six small fish, or one or two medium fish per 10-20 gallons. Make sure all varieties get along. Quarantine (separate) the new fish for a few days to one week to make sure they are healthy before adding them to your main tank.

Float the bagged fish in the tank for 10 to 15 minutes for temperature adjustment.

Open the bags and carefully mix small amount of water into the bag.  Repeat every 5-10 minutes for the next 10-20 minutes

After the fish have been acclimating 25-35 minutes, open the bags and let the fish swim out. Do not add all the bag water to the tank!

Turn off aquarium light and keep noise low in the room for at least the first day. Feed fish on the second day.

Add a couple of fish each week if you are not experiencing any issues.  Each time you add fish make sure to test your water to make sure all water quality paramieters are ideal for fish

What to Feed Your Fish

Warning: It is very easy to overfeed and kill a fish. Fish can go several days without eating.

Dried flakes are more balanced. Live brine shrimp, bloodworms and tubifex worms are OK as supplements. Choose food that always offers your fish a variety of ingredients, texture, and formula.

Bottom feeders should have a pelleted bottom feed that you supplimant every 2-3 days.

Make sure all fish get the right kind of food based on the kind of fish they are

Feed fish only what they can eat in 5 minutes. Clean/remove uneaten food daily.

Turn aquarium light on/off. Long daylight causes algae growth.  It is ideal to set your tank on a timer so the lighting schedule is consistent.

Check water temperature to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cold.  Certain fish types vary their ideals temperatures, so make sure to ask us you fish ideal temperature.  As a general rule tropical fish prefer 74-78deg, but can take slightly lower or slightly higher.  Consistency is key.  Make sure your temperature does not fluctuate.

At first, check water quality daily when you’re adding fish to the tank or when starting up a tank. Use water conditioner and water exchanges as needed to maintain water quality.   Remember just remove water at this time gravel vacuuming is not recommended at the very beginning.


Remove 10-20% of water from tank and replace it with clean water. Aging is usually not needed when you use the right amount of water conditioner and when water is the same temperature as tank (within 2-3deg). Use a water condition to remover clorine and cloramines and to get you water ready for the fish.

Remove algae that builds up on tank

Replace mechanical/chemical filter as needed. It is best to service one filter at a time to avoid disturbing biological filter

As Needed: Clean your fish tank (see below)

How to Clean Your Fish Tank

Scrape/clean tank as needed. To avoid scratching your tank, use special tools for acrylic tanks.

Never use soap

Siphon the gravel and clean off the rocks and/or décor with water

Replace water removed with conditioned water as part of water exchanges (see above)


How to Tell if Your Fish is Sick
Get to know your fish. If they seem to be acting differently, contact your veterinarian. Here are some signs that your fish may be sick:

Eating less than normal

Gasping for oxygen, breathing heavy

Staying hidden or staying at top or bottom

Changes in behavior, color, skin or fins


Stressors – Avoid These

Poor water quality (ammonia, temperature, low oxygen, etc.)

Not enough space or habitat

Temperature changes

Varieties that don’t get along aggression from other tank mates

Power failures

Poor diet/vitamin deficiency

Netting your fish

Diseases from not quarantining