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If you have a fish pond, fish tank or are seeking advice about keeping tropical fish, you can find advice on our Fish forum.


Where should I start?

10 replies

Madratlady · 12/02/2014 19:18

I'm a complete fish newbie, I want to have a tank of tropical fish but I want to make sure I've done my research and know what I'm doing before I buy anything.

Firstly what size tank is good to start with? I was thinking 120litre or possibly slightly larger. Can you recommend any makes or models of tank? What should I look for in a tank?

Are there any websites that you recommend for learning about fish keeping?

What types of fish are good for beginners?

Is there anything in particular you would give as advice to a new fish keeper? I'm a bit overwhelmed with all of the information available!

OP posts:
EauRouge · 12/02/2014 20:32

There is a lot of info available! Sadly some of it is total bollocks so you have to do tons of research at the beginning. It's worth it though, because if you start out right it'll save you loads of work and money in the long run.

120 litres is a great size, it's not so big that it'll take hours to clean but it'll give you lots of choice of fish.

If you just want a tank of small, mixed tropical fish then you might want to go for a plug and play type tank with the filter and heater already installed. Juwel Rios are popular and have a good reputation, I've never had one though. Don't get any of those sphere shaped or novelty type tanks, they are all crap.

Once your tank is all set up, you'll need to run it without fish in for a few weeks. This explains all about how to make the tank ready for fish. There are all kinds of products available that claim to speed up the process but not all of them work so best to just do it the old-fashioned way and wait. This will also give you time to plan your stock.

Different species of fish like different conditions. If you don't have anything specific in mind then the easiest thing to do is probably to choose fish that will suit your tap water. You'll need to know the hardness and pH and then that will narrow down your choices. A water test kit like this is a good bit of kit to have. You need to be able to test for ammonia, nitrIte, nitrAte and pH at the very least (there's other stuff you can test for but those are the basics).

If you do have a particular species in mind then you may need to set up the tank with that species in mind.

My main advice would be don't rush anything at the beginning! It takes a long time to set up a fish tank and stock it, but once it's done then it's pretty low maintenance. If you cut corners then you end up with diseased fish and you'll have to spend loads of time (and cash) trying to fix things.

If you just want to have a browse of different species then this is a good website with accurate info (some websites are very dodgy with info!) and PFK magazine is good for inspiration and articles.

Hope that helps a bit :)

Madratlady · 13/02/2014 22:58

I found a second hand 125l fluval tank with everything I need to get started going cheap on Gumtree so I went ahead and bought it. It needs cleaning and sone gravel and accessories but it has a heater, filter and lights.

Now to get it up and running fishless for a while and to decide what fish to start with.

I like the look of tetra, plecos and corys but obviously I need to make sure that conditions in the tank are suitable.

Where should I buy my fish from? There's a pets at home near me so that seems like the obvious place.

OP posts:
EauRouge · 14/02/2014 07:49

Noooooo, don't ever go to P@H. I have heard tales of the occasional good sales assistant but they are almost universally rubbish. Go to specialist place. Maidenhead Aquatics is good if there's one near you, or there are lots of good independent places (and plenty of shit ones). You could try the shop finder here to see if there are any recommendations.

Sounds like you got a total bargain with the tank. You can give it a good clean with a weak bleach solution, 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, and then rinse like crazy. I'd get some new media for the filter too. Sand is best if you want to keep bottom feeders. I find it easier to clean than gravel too because all the crap just rests on the surface.

There are lots of nice easy tetras and corys if the conditions are right. Plecs are lovely but a lot of them grow very large, some over 2 feet, so you need to be very careful choosing one. Bristlenose plecs are one of the most popular smaller ones.

Let us know what your water params are and I can suggest some species if you want.

Will you be having live plants as well? They're not that difficult to grow if you choose easy ones.

EauRouge · 14/02/2014 08:23

Ooh, just remembered clown plecs. Hmmm, I could probably fit one of those in. You are a bad influence Grin

Madratlady · 14/02/2014 09:17

I will clean it and set it up today. Thanks for the tip about sand. I will definitely have live plants. I am going to buy a water testing kit as well.

We don't have a specialist fishy shop near here byt I will find one within driving distance. I wouldn't buy any other animal from pets at home so it makes sense that I shouldn't get fish there.

OP posts:
EauRouge · 14/02/2014 11:01

If you want live plants then I would put some kind of fertilising substrate underneath the sand. There are some plants that need superstrong lighting and a CO2 diffuser but there are plenty more that aren't so fussy. I'm lazy so only grow easy plants- various cryptocrynes, anubias (grows on bogwood), vallis would be OK in your tank, java fern and java moss (also on bogwoof).

Marne · 15/02/2014 20:54

Pets at home can be ok ( there are few good ones) ,I would recommend making a few visits and looking at the quality of fish first ( if there's any dead fish or ill looking fish then don't buy from them ), our local pets at home are very good and I have never had any problems with fish I have bought from them, our local aquatic shop has sold me loads of ill fish ( some have died on the way home and some have passed things on to my other fish ), I visited our local maidenhead aquatics a few months a go and I was a bit surprised, all the fish were in tiny tanks and loads crammed into a small space, I'm not sure if this is how they all are? Maybe it's because the fish are not there long before they are sold? I'm now very wary of buying from any shop and am more tempted to buy from small home breeders.

EauRouge · 16/02/2014 09:16

Yes, they are in small tanks when they are being sold- this is the same in a lot of shops. They are all hooked up to an absolutely enormous filtration system (they might show you if you ask them). The tank looks small but it's really just a container in part of a larger tank, so that you can see the fish. I know that MH Aquatics have stricter criteria for hiring staff (ie they actually have to know about fish) and do more staff training than P@H do. This means that they're more likely to spot illnesses.

Yes, some independent shops are really shitty. There's one near me that I'd be properly pleased if it burnt down. But there are a couple of others that are very good. It's worth a look if there is one.

I would avoid P@H as a company though, they were on Watchdog not long ago. Not a great reputation for treating animals well.

Small home breeders are fab if you're not after any particular species, you can get some really good quality fish that way.

Madratlady · 17/02/2014 05:37

We decided to get a better filter. Dh has bought a load of gravel instead of sand but I guess that will still be ok?

I have decided that I want lots of guppies. Is it ok to just have males thougn so I don't end up wih hundreds?

OP posts:
EauRouge · 17/02/2014 08:20

If the gravel is rounded rather than jagged then it will be OK, you could always put patches of sand in for the catfish to scavenge in.

Yes, an all-male guppy shoal will be fine. They like their water quite warm and hard/alkaline.

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