I remember a time when I was in the exact same spot you’re in right now. Researching my very first fish tank…Very exciting times! Well let me help welcome you to the aquarium hobby by giving you possibly the best value a beginner in the aquarium hobby needs.
I’m going to give you the top 3 must know things about the aquarium hobby including a bonus that 90% of all fish keepers go through, lets call it a “heads up”.
Before we go over the Top 3 Must Know, lets quickly cover some obvious things for those new-new guys.
Here are some of the obvious but essential items you’ll need to start an aquarium. You’ll need a tank, a filter, a light, a heater and some substrate and décor. But all of these things are personal preferences so go with what best works for you and your application.
If you need help on deciding what brands to go with watch – Aquarium Hobby – Starting Your First Fish Tank
Aquarium Hobby Must Know
1- Nitrogen Cycle
So the guy at your Local Fish Store (LFS) is absolutely right about having to wait to add fish to your tank. You can not buy a tank, fill it with water, add some decorations and immediately put your new fish in the tank. They will die and you will be sad and confused as to what you did wrong and this can potentially turn you away from the hobby.
The reason why you cant simply add fish immediately is something called the nitrogen cycle.
Basically fish in your tank have to eat and then they have to poop like every other living thing. This waste floating around in your tank decomposes and turns into ammonia, and ammonia is very very deadly for your fish.
If this ammonia is not removed from your tank this is what kills your fish which is something we call in the hobby New Tank Syndrome.
So what removes this ammonia? Great question, that’s where the nitrogen cycle comes in. After setting up your tank, with time, somewhere about 2-4 weeks beneficial bacteria will begin to grow on all of the surfaces in your tank, don’t worry you can’t see them.
This beneficial bacteria is what will remove and convert the ammonia into less harmful bi-products for your fish, keeping them alive and healthy. If you add fish too soon before this cycle of growing beneficial bacteria is complete you can cause a deadly ammonia spike.
Here’s a great article on how to correct and combat a deadly ammonia spike.
Now I know you heard 2-4 weeks and you’re like whaattt, I have to wait that long?…traditionally yes, but technically no…There are great products on the market nowadays that can help boost your cycle time.
Api Quick Start and Seachems Stability both work great at speeding up your cycling time allowing you to add fish to your new tank in about a week, give or take. They accomplish this by adding the beneficial bacteria you need right from the bottle and it helps the bacteria settle and colonize on your surfaces.
For more information watch – Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Explained (SIMPLE)
2 – Aquariums Are Not For The Lazy
This hobby is not for the lazy! There is a lot of care and maintenance involved.
Remember I said the beneficial bacteria convert the deadly ammonia to a “less harmful” bi-product….well that less harmful bi-product called Nitrate, will eventually pile up and become very harmful.
The way to remove these nitrates is through water changes. Yes you will need to periodically remove and replace some of the water in your tank…How often, good question. That depends on your bio-load, Your bio load consists of things like how many fish you have, how often you feed, whether you have live plants or not…All of these will effect your bio-load.
And speaking of live plants, plants will also help in reducing and removing nitrates but they still don’t substitute a good water change!
Quick side note on water changes, I’m trying to keep the new-new guys in mind so if you’re a bit more experienced just bare with me. Before adding any new water into your tank, you must dechlorinate that water.
Tap water that we use and drink is chlorinated to keep it clean for us. But that chlorine will kill your fish, kill your plants, kill your beneficial bacteria, it will kill every living thing in your tank. So make sure that you add a de-chlorinator like Seachem Prime or API Stress Coat to dechlorinate your water before adding it to your tank.
Besides water changes you will also have to clean your filters periodically. Your fish can get sick and you might have to medicate them and remove them into Hospital/Quarantine tanks.
You can wake up one day and find some baby fish called fry in your tank and have to figure out what to do with them. Some types of fish, like my African Cichlids, may be aggressive and want to fight everybody else and you’ll have to figure out what to do with them.
The list can be long so my point is to just mentally prepare you and help you understand that this hobby does take work, but don’t let this discourage you, most of us that stick with this hobby actually enjoy the work, we enjoy taking care of our fish, watch you’ll see!!
3 – Cost Of Keeping An Aquarium
The last must know part of this hobby is the cost. Just like it’s not for the lazy, it’s not for the cheap either. Even if you start out small with a small tank and not that many fish things will begin to add up quickly.
Sure you can walk into your local pet store and see that 20 gallon tank on sale for 20 bucks and think oh that’s not bad, then you need that light, filter, that 20 dollar bag of gravel, that 20 dollar heater, you see where I’m going with this….Things will add up quickly.
Then don’t forget the cost of every fish you’d like to add, cost goes up the more unique they are, the more beautiful they are, the bigger they are.
There’s also costs of medications to care for sick fish, extra tanks to help them recover from disease or a bad fight. As you add more fish to your tank you may need to increase your filtration to keep harmful by-products from building up in your tank and to keep your water looking crystal clear.
But again, I don’t tell you this to discourage you, I just want you to be aware of what comes with owning a beautiful tank with beautiful fish!
This is something that 90% of all fish keepers have to deal in their aquarium keeping journey. It’s a disease called MTS which stands for Multi Tank Syndrome! But don’t worry, it’s not really a disease lol….
MTS is the feeling of wanting more tanks, more fish, a bigger tank, bigger fish, different species of fish, fresh water tank, salt water tank….There’s so much to enjoy in this hobby that you can get bit by this bug hard! This MTS bug that just makes you want more, more and more…So don’t say I didn’t warn you!
But with that being said make sure to enjoy your journey from a new fish keeper to an expert fish keeper some day. The journey is the most enjoyable part of the hobby. And whenever you need help or guidance come back here to KaveManAquatics.com or visit the KaveMan Aquatics YouTube Channel. There’s plenty of helpful videos there.