It’s almost that time of year again, where many families will be bringing new pet fish into their homes as holiday presents. Unfortunately, many of these new endeavors tend to end disastrously. But this doesn’t have to be the case for YOU! With our helpful guide, your fish can live a long a happy life.
Plan ahead. We all know the thrill of walking into the pet store and loading up on everything a fish could possibly want. You can still get that rush, but go in with a plan. Read this checklist to make sure you have everything you need to keep your fish happy for those first few critical weeks of life. Here’s how to set everything up once you’ve worked through your checklist.
Understand how tank cycling works. New tank syndrome is the downfall of many holiday fish systems. By starting with a low bioload for the first few weeks, you will save yourself the hassle of having to start over. Buy a reliable test kit and watch your parameters closely.
Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed, and this does NOT mean scrolling through the internet! There is a TON of misinformation on the internet. Call your local fish professional and have their number ready, just in case. Our office fields calls from all over the country on a daily basis for people needing help with the next step. Call us if you need help –> (831) 728-7000.
By working through these 5 simple steps, you have ensured your holiday fish will be a member of the family through the next holiday season. Need more? Be sure to read through our Top 10 Mistakes All New Fish Owners Make.
And flushing dead fish is NOT a sanitary method of disposal. After you have made sure they are dead, through prolonged drug exposure or cervical spine separation, place dead fish in the trash or bury them at least 12″ in the yard. Putting almost dead fish in the freezer is not humane.
When you set up a new fish tank for the first time, there are a few things you can expect to happen.
With a brand new filter, your nitrogen cycle has not been established. It will take 4-6 weeks MINIMUM to start cycling your new tank. There are countless products who claim they can instantly start your cycle, but they DO NOT WORK. We tested many products and only one was able to shorten our cycle by one week.
During those sensitive weeks, your tank will undergo the following spikes in ammonia, nitrite and finally, nitrate, as those bacteria colonies are established. You tank’s temperature and filtration capacity will determine how fast your cycle is established.
As your nitrogen cycle is established, your fish can be in danger of toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite. Therefore, it is essential to keep you bioload low in those first few weeks! Rather than fully stocking your tank from the get-go, start with only a few, hardy fish until your cycle is established. Keep a close eye on your parameters with a water quality test kit. Plot your readings and you will match the graph above.
Ammonia-binding products will prevent this cycle from occurring. Your tank will be stuck in perpetual “new tank” standing. We understand that it can be very scary to see your new tank spike with ammonia, but you cannot get to the end stage without the journey in between. Keep a close eye on your parameters and bioload low in the first 4-6 weeks and you’ll be all set from then on! If you’re really worried, or your fish start to act sickly, do a small water change to decrease the spike. And if you decide to replace your filter media every month, your tank will be continually cycling. So, ignore the box, and invest in a sturdy sponge instead.
Thinking about adding a new tank to your home or business? Make sure you have everything you need before you get started. Print this list and bring it with you to the store to make sure you don’t forget anything.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: What kind of tank do you want? How big of a tank can you comfortably fit? What kind of fish do you want to have? How many fish of that type can your newly described tank hold? Sorry, but the 1″ of fish per gallon rule does NOT work. Research your species and understand what environment works best for them BEFORE you buy ANYTHING!
Check List for New Tank
_____ Fish tank of _______ gallons
_____ Table that can hold ______ gallons fish tank (1 gallon of water = 3.78 kg or 8.34 lbs)
_____ Lid for tank with light
_____ Filter capable of volume 1.5x ______ gallons (canister or hang-on)
_____ If tank is >30 gallons, consider adding aerator or powerhead to improve water flow
______ Substrate (gravel, rocks, sand, etc.)
______ Gravel vacuum
______ Decor items (must be FISH SAFE) – for bettas, stick with items that will not snag fins
Looking to add some new fish to your system? Here’s a helpful checklist to help you through!
Do you have room for more fish? The standard 1 gallon of water per 1″ of fish is a terrible standard. Fish vary too much in their build and nutritional conversion for this standard to hold true. Be sure to read this article to make sure you have room for more!
Will the new fish get along with your current fish? Species tolerances and pecking order need to be taken into consideration when selecting new fish. If you have a tank, make sure that each fish has enough room for their own territory without overlap. Here is a good website to get an idea for different species space requirements.
Where are you purchasing the fish from? There a numerous “reputable dealers” that claim all their fish are healthy. Be sure to ask about their specific quarantine protocols and see evidence of when the fish were delivered to their facility. A “reputable dealer” does NOT guarantee healthy fish!!!
How will you be transporting them? How long will the transport be? Most fish are sold and packed with pure oxygen in bags containing some water. These bags are either shipped or hand carried to their new homes. Try to minimize any temperature swings or extremes during transport. Do NOT hold the bag on your lap. Prop them upright in a sturdy box and keep them out of the sun.
The capture, handling and transport will cause your fish stress and subsequently their immune system will drop, allowing pathogens to replicate rapidly. Fish are not sterile critters and have bacteria and parasites on them at all times, but their immune systems keep them in check. During the stressful transport process, all the pathogens (bacteria, fungus, parasites, etc) will replicate, REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOUR FISH IS COMING FROM. So when they get home to your tank, they will pass on everything to your current fish. How do you prevent this? QUARANTINE! QUARANTINE! QUARANTINE!
Quarantine all new additions for 4-6 weeks, REGARDLESS of where they come from. This is non-negotiable. You will potentially save the lives of all of your fish by doing this. See our Quarantine Webinar for more information.
By following this checklist, you will ensure that you have healthy fish coming into your system. Most of the health issues in tanks arise secondary to new fish additions. Protect your fish.