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5. Never buy a fish the first or second day after arrival at a dealer.
Fish that have arrived at your dealer are, as I pointed out, previously stressed out from their journey etc. It will take them typically a few days to recover and adjust. They often will refuse to eat until they have made the adjustment satisfactorily, and sometimes, if they do not adjust, will fade away. Furthermore salt water fish that have been caught with cyanide, a still too common practice, will look great but in fact will never eat again.
If you have chosen a good dealer, and developed a good rapport with him, you should be able to select your fish, possibly give a conditional deposit, and then return to the shop two or three times over the next week, and see that fish still looks good, is swimming vigorously, and most importantly observe it eating with enthusiasm.
The risks you take by letting your enthusiasm, or the dealer's sales talk, overcome your better judgment can cost and too often does, many subsequent problems.
6. Do not overcrowd your Aquarium.
Fish in Nature, have an almost unlimited amount of space. In an aquarium we can never reproduce this freedom. Even though it is technically possible today to let the filters carry quite substantial numbers of fish with no Ammonia or other problems ( see what is done in fish hatcheries), in an environment like an aquarium where we have typically many differing species, the room for them to feel free without pressure, is most easily achieved by lack of crowding. Hiding by some fish will many times be an indicator that such a limit of space has been reached.
So just as we humans need a certain amount of space to avoid overcrowding, which with us can lead to arguments and worse, so do our fish.
7. Avoid overfeeding.
One of the biggest attractions, and the feeling of great satisfaction, is feeding our fish. Unlike dogs or cats, the cost is minimal, so that the tendency to feed to often is easily understood. Be aware however that fish will eat when fed, and will consume usually in a couple of minutes all they require. Any excess will just drop to the bottom and pollute the tank, thus leading quickly, if repeated too often, to a major deterioration of the water quality, and subsequent problems are to be expected.
Normally feeding once or twice at the most is adequate for mature fish. Should you be raising young fish then 3-5 times a day is permissible.
8. Vary the diet.
All to often the food fed is whatever packet of food the dealer recommends . Although in today's world most reputable manufacturers make some very good products, no-one would think of eating Kellogg's Cornflakes as a sole diet, even though it claims to contain all the necessary vitamins etc.
Vary the diet. Live food given once or twice a week, like newly hatched Brine shrimp nauplii, are a great stimulant to the fish, and the nauplii can also be fed with additives, to provide a fully balanced diet to your fish.
A balanced diet is also a requirement for good fish health. Vary the dry food inputs, give some live food a couple of times a week (but do ensure it is free of pathogens). When eating fish at home ( or if not buy a couple of inexpensive fish and keep in the freezer), cut a SMALL TINY amount in as small fragments as you can manage and drop it into the tank. You will be amazed at the excitement that the fish will display at this addition to their diet.
9. Create a natural environment.
Plastic plants, fancy ornaments, exotically colored gravel, may please the observer, but are far from the natural environment of your fish. Living plants contribute oxygen, epiphytic growths, and a natural fauna, which is what occurs in the streams, lakes, rivers and the sea.
Rocks of the right type, can provide sanctuaries as well as give a normal feeling to the tank.
Empty tanks, with nothing to vary the day to day existence of your fish, are the equivalent to placing a fish in a jail cell. Some fish will become "bored" with their existence, and will compare to, in their condition and behavior, unfavorably with fish held under more suitably decorated aquaria.
10. Never introduce new fish, during the day, or in fully lit tanks.
Fish are very territorial , as they soon take up residence and select a part of the tank which is their preferred watering hole. They also are usually very aware of all the other inhabitants of the tank, and will often react aggressively if newcomers are introduced. They see these newcomers as competition for food, for their special place in the tank, even as a companion for a fish they have come to think of as their own best friend.
For all of these, and perhaps other reasons, they will defend in the only way they know how, by attacking the newcomer. In some cases when the new fish is much larger than they are, they will hide away in shock, and the stress that this induces can sometimes bring on a latent disease.
In any case the new fish will be subjected if he is not too large to considerable aggression. This, when coupled with the stress factor of coming into a new environment, can lead to a breakdown of some sort in the new fish.
The best way to minimize the danger, is to always introduce the new fish into the tank under very subdued lighting late in the evening. Keep the lights as low as possible. Rearrange some of the plants and or rocks, so that the existing inhabitants are preoccupied with trying to find their usual spot in the tank.
Now carefully introduce the new fish, ensuring slow equivalence of the 2 waters ( i.e. the one from your quarantine tank, if you have used such, or if not the water in the bag from the store).
Once the balance of the 2 waters has been achieved, usually best done by floating the bag with one end open in the main aquarium and allowing the 2 waters to slowly mix, then ensure that the new fish swim into the tank, and turn of all lighting for the night. In most cases in my experience such a methodology reduces to almost zero the aggression in which alternative ways of introduction too often produce.
So there we have it: 10 Rules which, if followed, will help to ensure that you do at least not introduce problems that could with just a little precaution be avoided. They will not guarantee you a disease free aquarium, but I can assure you in a life time of keeping fish, they will reduce the incidence of problems by a factor of as much as 70% or more. Most problems are evident to the experienced. Learning from others, if you are willing to, can help protect your investment, give you great pleasure, and will in effect produce a hobbyist that knows what they are doing and why.
See you next month.
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