TOP-6 Mistakes Beginners Make in Caring for their Fish
Author: Casey Fenn
Casey Fenn has 3+ years of experience in writing content. He lives in western North Carolina with his wife, four children, and an assortment of farm animals – including a dog, twenty chickens, a handful of quail, and one milk cow. Casey specializes to write articles in Dog Care, Cat Care, and Tips for Aquarium Owners.View all 10 articles Learn about our editorial process and veterinary review board.
Updated on: 11/02/2020
If you’re looking for a low maintenance pet, fish probably come to mind right away. What could be lower maintenance than buying a tank, filling it with water, dumping a few fish in, and tapping a little fish food in every day? It’s so simple that a child could do it… right?
While fish are lower maintenance than many other pets (like dogs or cats), they aren’t quite as low maintenance as many people assume. That’s why many unprepared first-time fish owners end up finding their fish belly up after a week or two. Caring for your fish isn’t as simple as putting them in some water and occasionally feeding them.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make the same mistakes that many beginning fish aficionados make. You can learn from their screw-ups by reading these top 6 mistakes that beginners make in caring for their fish – and then doing the opposite.
So, let’s dig right in so you can make your first-time fish owning experience the best it can be. You’ll be thankful you did (and your fish will be even more thankful).
#1: Not Starting with the Fish
If you’re thinking about getting some pet fish, you may assume that step one would be “buying a tank.” But you’d be wrong. Before you drop $100+ on tanks, filters, and lights, you need to start with your fish.
Now, you may think, “If I go out and buy a fish without having a tank, where will they live until my tank’s set up? In a little plastic bag?” But I’m not talking about starting with buying your fish. I’m talking about starting with learning about your fish.
You need to know what to expect. And depending on the breed of your fish, equipment requirements can vary wildly. Marine fish will need different equipment than freshwater fish. And different kinds of fish will need different space requirements, which means your aquarium’s size will depend on what kind of fish you purchase (and how many you end up with).
Almost everything about your equipment will hinge on the fish you populate it with. So, before you go out and buy everything you need to keep your fish, decide what kind of fish you want. Research different breeds, their needs, and how they get along with others. Then base all your purchases on your fish.
Do that, and you’ll avoid one of the most common beginning fish keeping mistakes out there.
READ MORE: The Easiest Freshwater Fish to Breed
#2: Introducing Fish Too Soon
You’ve done your research. You’ve gotten all your equipment purchased and setup. Now it’s time to get your fish and throw them in the tank, right? Wrong!
Before you can introduce any fish to your newly setup aquarium, you’ll need to give your aquarium time to properly cycle. If your fish are going to be healthy and happy, they’ll need a tank that has plenty of good bacteria in it – bacteria that will eat up and remove harmful toxins from your aquarium’s water. But those bacteria take time to multiply.
After your tank is setup, you’ll want to let it cycle for several days so that it can remove harmful particles and cultivate an environment that’s friendly to your fish. You may want to use a bacterial starter to get the environment kickstarted. Then, you’ll need to add fish slowly. They will carry many of those good bacteria with them. And once they’re all living together in your new tank, it shouldn’t take long for your biologic filtration system to be in top working condition.
So, practice patience when adding fish to your new aquarium and you’ll avoid one of the biggest mistakes that new fish owners make.
#3: Failing to Maintain Your Tank
Fish may be ‘low maintenance’, but they aren’t ‘no maintenance.’ If you fail to regularly clean your aquarium and perform basic maintenance, your fish will die. Your water will turn green. And you’ll end up with a major mess.
So, what should you do to get around this common (and easy to avoid) mistake?
On a daily basis, you’ll want to remove excess food, monitor water levels and temperature, and be aware of how your fish look and are acting.
On a weekly basis, you’ll want to change about 10% of the water, scrub any algae that may be accumulating on the sides of your tank, gently rinse any biological filtration in your reserve tank’s water, and remove any dead leaves or other debris.
On a monthly basis, you’ll want to perform a water quality test, clean any underwater décor, and vacuum the gravel under the décor before replacing it.
By keeping up with this simple schedule, you’ll ensure that your fish have the best life possible. And you’ll avoid one of the most common mistakes that new fish owners make.
#4: Mixing Incompatible Fish
Have you ever had a roommate that you didn’t get along with? If you have, you know how your fish will feel if you try and force them into a tank with an incompatible fish. The only difference is that fish will literally kill one another.
Before you purchase a host of colorful fish to populate your tank with, make sure that you do the necessary research to ensure that they won’t fight. And you shouldn’t just to check that the species are compatible. Some fish are so hostile that you can’t even put two of the same species together. Bettas are famous for being so aggressive that even housing male and females together can turn deadly.
So, be sure that you know the ins and outs of your species, including what kinds of fish they’ll play nice with. Keep this in mind and you’ll be able to avoid one of the most common fish keeping mistakes.
READ MORE: Best Freshwater Fish Combination
#5: Overfeeding Your Fish
Overfeeding is the single most common reason that new fish owners wind up with floating fish. Fish tend to look hungry all the time. And you may think, “What could be bad about shaking in a little extra food?”
But overfeeding your fish can result in major problems for your little waterborne pets. And it’s not just because they’ll become obese or end up with a fatty liver. Putting too much food in your tank will lead to excess waste that chemically alters your tank water. And this can lead to your fish getting sick or even dying.
So, how can you keep from overfeeding? It’s a good idea to only give them an amount of food that they can eat within five minutes. If you load them up with a whole buffet’s worth of food, there’s a good chance that they’ll end up overeating and that there will still be food left over. If that happens, waste is bound to be a problem.
So, keep from loading them up with too much food and you’ll go a long way toward avoiding this common fish keeping mistake.
READ MORE: How Often to Feed a Fish
#6: Caring Too Much
You may have read this mistake and wondered, “How can I care too much?” Look, fish aren’t like dogs. They aren’t even like cats. And if you spend too much time hovering over them, obsessing over how much algae is in the tank, constantly cleaning their tank or replacing their water, you will kill them.
Just as there’s a danger in doing too little to maintain your fish, so there’s a danger in doing too much.
So, don’t feel like you need to be constantly rearranging their furniture or adding new décor with each passing day. Don’t immediately reach for the medication the moment you notice one of your fish swimming a little slower than usual. And don’t get out your scrub brush the second you see a little green algae growing on the side of your tank.
Instead, take a deep breath. If you’ve done your homework, set your tank up according to best practices, and follow a regular maintenance schedule, your fish should be fine.
Aquariums are great for helping you relax. If you find that it’s causing more stress than relaxation, you’re doing it wrong. So, instead of analyzing every move your fish make, sit back and simply enjoy them.
If you do this, you’ll avoid one more common mistake that many first-time fish owners make. And you’ll actually be able to enjoy your new aquatic pets.
And that is why you decided to get fish in the first place, right?
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