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It all starts out the same. Kid X begs for a puppy. Kid Y wants a kitty. You barter a fish to “see how it goes.” Tank gets set up, the first fish gets plunked in, and everything goes swimmingly… for about 2 weeks. Then all hell breaks loose and your fish dies. The tank is tossed and the fish forgotten.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Follow these 4 simple steps and I guarantee that your fish will have a fighting chance!
1. The fish you bought at the pet store are probably already sick.
How do I know this? Given the rapid turn-over at the pet store, most commonly less than 48 hours, stores never know what fun diseases their fish are already carrying! White spot disease in particular is the most common. Only ONE of these little spots can spawn 1,000 babies! At warm temperatures, this can spiral into a pit of death and despair within days. If you see ANY fish in the store with suspicious white spots, dead or listless fish in the tank, go somewhere else or order online. Ask when then fish came in. If they have been there over a week, they are probably healthier. probably… THERE IS NO WHERE YOU CAN GO THAT WILL GUARANTEE HEALTHY FISH. It’s just not profitable; yes, I tried.
2. Quarantine your new fish so your first fish stays healthy.
Yes, it’s a pain in the @$$. Yes, it takes away the instant gratification. But quarantining fish from different stores/batches/yard sales will keep disease from spreading. Ever watched one of those zombie movies where the virus spreads so quickly no one can do anything? It’s the same thing with your fish. You may have gotten lucky with the first batch of fish, but you’ll play Russian Roulette with any new additions. Get another tank, keep it far away from the first tank and USE SEPARATE EQUIPMENT! At least 4-6 weeks (shorter for warmer water). For full rules and restrictions, read this.
3. New Tank Syndrome is the #1 cause of new fish death.
We are all obsessed with instant gratification. When you first get your tank, you want it full NOW! Well, sorry to say that this is just asking for a disaster. Newbie fish keepers are most likely unfamiliar with the NITROGEN CYCLE. This cycle keeps your fish ALIVE. There is no product you can buy to “short cut” this cycle. Our office tried a dozen products and ONLY ONE shortened the cycle by 1 week. 4-6 weeks MINIMUM are necessary to make your new fish home inhabitable. Starting with just a few fish will get your cycle up and running without sending your toxic ammonia on a mission to kill all your fish. Read this, memorize it and tell everyone you see about it. And you know that 1″ of fish per gallon is bull, yes?
4. WATER CHEMISTRY
Dedicated followers have heard this before… many times. It’s the most popular topic on our website. Good water quality = happy, healthy fish. I can’t make it easier than that. Get a test kit and use it regularly. In the beginning, this will be DAILY. After your NITROGEN CYCLE is established, scale back to WEEKLY. If your system has remained unchanged in maintenance practices, equipment and fish for 3 months, you can maybe get away with MONTHLY. We recommend new tank and pond owners stick to a regular maintenance routine and treat it as gospel until you get the hang of things.
Alright, rant over. Please value your fishes’ lives. It pains our service when these calls come in and it’s too late to help.
2 thoughts on “How to Properly Take Care of Your First Fish”
Thank you so much for your website! As a “people doctor,” I spend a fair amount of time thinking “My MD degree trumps your google search” (they make a mug that says thus). I’m pretty certain you feel the same about your DVM. I was thrilled to find your website after extensive searching; there is just too much spurious information out there. I have a very happy red veil tail betta in a 10 gallon tank, thanks to your information. It has been rewarding to graph out my water testing and watch it do what you said it would. Thanks for all you do, and keep up the good fight!
Thank you so much for your comment! I greatly appreciate your support. I do have that mug! I hope your betta has many happy, healthy years.