Taking care of fish requires compassion and knowledge. They don't share the same environment as the owner and they have limited interaction with anyone who keeps them.
This help guide explains how to check if you are caring for your pet fish with humanity - and according to the legal duty of care beholding to all fishkeepers.
A good place to start is learning about what types of fish you should be keeping.
Let's say you head over to your local aquatic shop. In general, they will offer you three choices:
By and large, most beginner aquarists learn the basics by setting up a small goldfish bowl (coldwater). Then, with a little extra understanding about pet fish health care, keeping tropical freshwater fish is usually the next step.
Pro Tip: You'll need a heating device if you will be keeping tropical or marine fish species in an aquarium. Another section explains Top Fin heater instructions to help you set the optimum temperature for the water.
The most significant difference between freshwater and saltwater fish species is "salinity". For example, the natural habitat for freshwater fish will be non saline bodies of water (e.g. ponds, rivers, streams).
Whereas, species of saltwater fishes live in salty or brackish water environments (e.g. estuaries, mangroves, seas, and oceans).
Put another way:
You must be mindful of whether the types of fishes you are going to keep will need fresh or salty water. Otherwise, they are likely to suffer and eventually die!
As a general rule of thumb, beginners will find it easier to keep freshwater fish than marine species. Fishes needing saline water tend to be more colourful (e.g. Firefish Goby). But, they will be less hardy than most of the freshwater varieties (e.g. betta fish, goldfish, guppies, and tetras).
Plus, saltwater fish tend to be more expensive to buy and it usually costs more to keep them. You will need a large glass or plastic aquarium, specialised equipment (e.g. the air pump) and different kinds of colourful and decorative aquarium accessories.
Important: You shouldn't keep tropical and coldwater fish species together in the same container because they'll need different aspects of fish health care.
By and large, the Top Fin® brand offers a comprehensive range of good aquariums for beginners to start off. They tend to be less expensive than some of the other makes and they are quite easy to assemble.
The next step will be selecting the right kind of fish for your size of tank. You will need to take into account the size of your container and how big the fish will be, as they grow from juveniles to adults. You may be inviting problems if you have too many or they grow too big.
But wait - there's more:
In case you didn't know... some fish are cannibalistic creatures, which means they will try to eat their own species!
As a consequence, you should avoid mixing most of the large fish varieties with any small species. So, a good rule of thumb is to consider whether your small fish is going to fit inside the mouth of the big ones. If so, they may get eaten.
Like most humans, the majority of aquatic animals are gregarious by nature. Thus, you should try to buy shoaling species in numbers (e.g. at least six). Some solitary species get stressed, or will turn territorially aggressive, when they don't have a companion of their own kind.
Important: Avoid buying artificially dyed or genetically modified fish species. According to fish care and the law, the vendor or the buyer may need a licence to purchase certain kinds of non-native coldwater species (e.g. from Europe and North America).
There is no straightforward number of fish you can have in a tank. But, there is a general guideline. Consider the following factors before you decide how many to keep captive inside an enclosed container:
Pro Tip: An appropriate stocking level for an aquarium with a healthy amount of beneficial bacteria or living plants will have a nitrate level below forty (40) parts per million (ppm).
The introduction of fish into any container should be a smooth one - no matter whether it's a pond or a large glass tank.
Most pet stores sell tropical fish in a plastic bag for transportation. So, you want to equalise the water temperature inside the bag to match the water inside your tank.
The easiest method is to let the bag float at the top of the tank for around twenty (20) minutes. Then, open up the bag so that the fish can swim into their new home after they have acclimatised to their environment. Adding some water fleas (Daphnia) may help them settle in a little quicker.
It goes without saying that the aquarium will be a "quarantine" tank for the first fish that you introduce. But, when you start adding more specimens, you may need to use a separate tank to help prevent disease spreading to your existing setup.
The quarantine of all new fish acquisitions should take place in similar conditions as the main aquarium, and for a period of at least two (2) weeks. Hence, you will be able to treat any fish diseases that manifest themselves in the separate small size container.
In case you were wondering:
There should be no gravel or natural plants kept inside a quarantine tank. It's better to use plastic decorations and accessories so you can wash and disinfect them in the proper manner. Plus, you can also use it as a "hospital tank" to treat any fish that get sick.
You can buy healthy fish food at most aquatic stores. But, you should try to combat the urge to give fish too much food. In fact, overfeeding them is very unlikely to produce healthier fish and any eaten food is going to pollute the water.
Besides the commercially-available prepared flaked and freeze-dried foods, you can also feed them with some live microorganisms. Typical examples include:
Pro Tip: The recommended method to avoid overfeeding your fish is to only feed them enough food that they will consume within a few minutes.
When you start keeping fish as a hobby, you will become as attentive as families are with their pets (e.g. cats and dogs). In other words, you should be looking out for any major deterioration in fish health, especially changes in:
The most common diseases in aquarium fish are parasites, which can be internal or external. But, other illnesses to look out for are fungal issues, bacterial, and viral infections.
As with all delicate creatures, you should only handle fish kept in captivity when you need to do so, such as when moving them to a different tank. Even the "hardiest" species will suffer permanent fin and gill damage if a human handles them in the wrong manner.
So, be gentle when you use a net to scoop them out of the water to avoid damaging the slime coat protection on their skin.
Important: Another help section contains tips and advice explaining how to troubleshoot common problems with aquarium fish and find the best solution.
You should NOT flush a dead fish down the toilet (or bury it in the ground) because waste water and soil water will make its way into the river systems. Hence, diseased fishes can create a serious problem for native river species in the UK if they don't have a resistance to the strain.
Instead, the best method for getting rid of any dead fish is incineration. Another solution is to wrap it in newspaper and then Microwave it for two (2) minutes at 600 Watts (to kill harmful bacteria and viruses) before putting it into a household waste dustbin for routine collection.
Important: The disposal of any unwanted fish in an outdoor natural water source is illegal in the United Kingdom. Another section contains more information about the legal duty of care for keeping fish according to the Federation of British Aquatic Societies (FBAS) and the Animal Welfare Act 2006.