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Getting Started


If you have just bought a tank, or are planning to buy one, here you can find what to do next.

Buying a tank

The first thing you'll have to decide about is the size of the tank you'd like to have. If it is going to be your first tank I'd advise you not to buy a 200*50*50 tank, but rather to start with a smaller one. After practicing for a year you will have accumulated enough knowledge to start with a big(ger) tank. A 60 or better an 80*40*40 cm tank is a nice tank to start with. They don't require the amount of work large tanks do, and can be purchased quite cheap. Smaller tanks have other problems, since they don't have much buffering capacity a small mistake can be fatal.

The first chapter in older aquariumbooks usually is about the building of a tank. Nowadays, purchase is a much faster and sometimes even a cheaper method. For people that do want to build their own check out the page on how to do that.

Accessories

There's an absolute need for accessories. A plain glass tank, filled with water is not sufficient for most fish. For a coldwatertank nature can provide you with all the accessories you need. Please check out the following page if your interest goes out to your local pondlife. Coldwatertanks. You may want to write down the accessories list, or just go to the checklist page and print it.

Styropoam.

A glass tank is fragile. If you put it straight onto a table, chances are that the pressure isn't applied evenly to the bottom plate, which can cause it to break. A tiny piece of gravel can already cause this to happen. To prevent this the tank should be placed on a piece of styropoam, or something similar. Specially constructed black mats are also available at the aquariumstore, but more expensive.

Light.

All planted tanks need light. Sunlight can be used for this, but it's hard to regulate. Other options are to use lightbulbs, fluorescent light and HQI lighting. The last one is usually only used for large showtanks. The plain lightbulbs are useful, and plants can grow using this type of light. However, don't be surprised if some plants will die due to lack of light. Another point against using plain bulbs is the amount of energy they use, and the heat that's generated by them. Currently, fluorescent lighting is considered the best method. Low energy cost, combined with a high yield(Lumen).

Time Clock

Unless you want to turn on the tanks light every day, and in the evening turn it off again, you really need one. The cheap ones can be very noisy, but that up to you.

Heater.

If you plan to keep tropical fish, a heater is a requirement. Subtropical fish(List under construction, for example Elassoma evergladei) can be kept in the livingroom without additional heat. Real tropical fish need temperatures of 22 degrees and higher, so(unless you live in the tropics)the tank needs to be heated. There are several types of heaters, but currently fully submersible heaters with an easy dial, to select the temperature you prefer, are available. Although a bit more expensive, they're probably the best ones you can buy. As for the wattage, as a rule of thumb, 1Watt per 2 liter is sufficient. A page about heating tanks from 1850 until now, and a review of different types of currently available heaters, is under construction.

Filtration.

Two types of filtration are currently available, internal and external filtration. There are many options for each type, but for a beginner I'll try to describe the readily available systems. For small tanks up to 60 cm an internal filter is a better option, from 80cm and up an external filter used to be necessary. A rule of thumb here is not so easy, it depends among other on how many fish you plan to keep in a tank. In general a filter should be able to process all the water in the tank once per hour.
An internal filter mostly just removes particles from the water(Only a little biological breakdown of waste products), and it should be cleaned frequently(Once a week, two weeks). An external filter, when filled with special filtration material like active charcoal, will besides remove particles also have a decent biological effect, and doesn't have to be cleaned very often(3-6 months).Cleaning this filter is a lot more work, and the tubes are also a disadvantage. Besides that, an internal filter cannot leak.

NOTE: Many insurance companies do not cover damages caused by aquariums in the standard package. Check with your insurance agent!! A additional insurance is required, but usually quite cheap.


Thermometer.

Don't ever believe that the temperature you once measured will remain the same, sometimes heaters stop functioning, sometimes it'll get really warm in a tank because it's partly in the sun. You'll need a thermometer to check how warm the water actually is. Do not buy the stick-on strips. Besides being inaccurate, hard to read and so on, they also break down quickly and are almost impossible to remove. The other ones you shouldn't buy are the quicksilver themometers, quicksilver is highly toxic, and if the thermometer breaks it may kill all of the fish in the tank. It's also very toxic to humans. Alcohol thermometers are the only safe ones to use, although a bit hard to read. They may be off a degree or so, so always check them against other thermometers. Get a suction cup with the thermometer, or else they will be hard to find in a tank, and always with the wrong side visible. A spare one is always handy, and can be used while doing waterchanges.

Gravel.

Gravel shouldn't be too small, nor too large for a general community tank. Very small gravel will fill up fast with muck, creating large areas without oxygen in the soil. Large gravel will retain foodremains since the fish cannot get to it anymore. In general gravel from 3-6mm diameter is good to use. Many fish show a lot better colors if kept over dark gravel, and if for example corydoras catfish are to be kept, the gravel shouldn't be sharp.

Cotton.

Three different types exist, white, green and blue. White will filter out the smallest particles, green the medium, and blue the largest pieces. For an external filter it's best to first filter over green, then over a filtration medium(active charcoal), and last over white. It's not necessary to use the blue cotton. Bubble filters in small breeding tanks are usually filled with white cotton only.

Active charcoal.

This stuff is added to external filters. Through a special treatment it has millions of micropores, on which bacteria can grow. These bacteria will eat the pollutants that are dissolved in the water, and thus clean the water a little. Through the special stucture it can house much more bacteria than the white cotton mentioned above, and the more bacteria are present, the more pollutants they remove.Active charcoal also has a limited ability to adsorb heavy metals and other chemicals from the water.

Tubes and buckets.

You'll need a bucket, that hasn't been used for cleaning, and a decent tube(2-3meters) to do waterchanges.

Water conditioners.

In some areas of the world tapwater is more or less suitable for aquariumfish, but in most cases it isn't immediately suitable for fish to swim in. Check with your local watersupplier about the watervalues of the water they supply to you(pH and Hardness), and what treatments they use to fight bacteria in the pipelines. Asking your local fish stores and fellow hobbyists in the area may also help.
For a normal community tank, and for ease of use, it's always good to use watertreatments. They will get "rid" of poisonous heavy metals and gasses dissolved in the water quickly. Some chemicals like chloramine are not removed by all treatments, so ask if its present in the water, and if so, get a treatment that does remove this stuff.

The other two things, pH and Hardness.

pH:
If the water supplied to you is between pH 6.5 and 7.5/8, which is around neutral, it's not necessary to to treat it. Water in tanks has a tendency to become more acid, so the pH will go down a little over time. If water is outside of this range, you should by something to bring the pH down or up a bit.

To bring the pH down, you could use an acid, like HCL(Hydrochloric acid), but it's not really safe and hard to control. Another method is to use a CO2 fertilizer, but this is quite expensive, and for beginners unsuited. The other things you can do are buying a bottle of pH minus, or hang some active peat(both are sold in the fish store) in a nylon stocking in the tank. Whenever you start to change the pH or the hardness, you will need a testkit to check the values, to see if you have the value you want.

Hardness:
There are ways to bring down the hardness of water, and also to increase it. Increasing it is the easiest part, adding some Epsom salt will increase the hardness. Softening the water is a bit harder, and requiers either expensive RO-units, buying Demineralised water and mixing it with tap water, adding rainwater( If you plan to use this, see the water section, where it's explained how to do this!), but peat filtration in combination with boiling the water are the two easiest options. The simplest solution is not to change the waterhardness at all, but to buy fish that like the kind of water coming out of your tap. If it's below 5 dGH, very soft, look for fish that like that kind of water. If it's between 5-12 dGH you can keep most fish, higher than that you'll have to look a bit which fish will like that, but as an example Tanganjica cichlids and many livebearers will thrive in that water.

Now that you know what you need

You can now print the checklist, add stuff you need in addition to what's been written there(Testkit, Epsom salt, Active peat), and go to the store. You may want to check several stores for the prices, and you don't need to buy everything in the same store. Second hand stuff is also good to start with. If you plan on buying the tank and bringing it home yourself, dont forget a large thick blanket to place it underneath the tank, as well as a spacious car. Many tanks have broken on their first and only trip. It may also be wise to read a bit more than the stuff you see here, libraries are free to enter and to read a book, and there's much more information available on the net. This is just a opinion, not "the".

What you should NOT do now

Don't buy fish and plants yet!

After you bought everything you need check out the setting up a tank section.

If you have any comments please mail to aquaworld

 

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