5 Beginner mistakes when starting an aquarium


Setting up your first aquarium is a great new experience. For a beginner, trying to maintain an aquarium can be challenging. You can make many mistakes. And many times, these beginner mistakes are simply caused by a lack of information and experience.

There are various sources of information available online, but you may not always find the correct information and the right solution for your exact situation.

This article will help you resolve the most common mistakes you can make while setting up an aquarium, or ideally avoid them all together. Avoiding the initial errors is much easier than trying to correct them at a later date. So, let's take a look at 5 of the most common beginner aquarium mistakes and how you can avoid them.

1. Adding fish before the aquarium is ready

From vibrant goldfish to beautiful underwater decor, we know the excitement that comes with a new aquarium. You may be keen to buy your fish and add them to their new home as soon as you've set up your tank. And we don't blame you! There is nothing as pleasing as watching your beautiful fish swim and live in an aquarium you made just for them.

However, if you add a group of fish to your aquarium without first setting the correct water parameters and acclimatizing them, your little friends will likely die.

When it comes to tanks, beginner aquarists often misjudge the importance of the different chemical levels and nitrogen cycle. Your tank needs to stabilize before the fish are added. This includes running your aquarium on a nitrogen cycle and then testing for proper water parameters (hardness, pH, temperature). Once you have finished this process, you can add fish to your tank.

2. Buying too small an aquarium

A common myth among beginner fish keepers is that a smaller tank is easier to maintain than a larger one. Larger tanks are more expensive, more difficult to clean, and require a more complex setup process.

This may be true to some extent, but larger tanks come in handy.

Due to the increased volume of water, any issues and changes in water parameters are less impactful for your fish. This makes larger tanks easier to monitor as changes take longer to impact the water quality, giving you more time to react to the problem. For beginners, we recommend purchasing a tank between 20 and 30 gallons in size.

3. Adding too many fish to a tank

Imagine being trapped in a tiny room with a group of people, unable to move. That is almost exactly what happens when you have too many fish in a tank. And, unfortunately, it is a mistake that many beginners make with their new aquariums.

Too many fish can cause problems with your tank's filtration system due to increased ammonia production. This can make maintaining your aquarium temperature and chemical levels an absolute nightmare.

Your tank can also have reduced oxygen levels, making it difficult for your fish to breathe in their crowded home. Other problems with having too many fish include possible aggression between the fish, more algae, and high nitrate levels (causing the fish to get sick).

4. Mixing incompatible fish

It's easy to think that all fish get along. After all, not many species of fish seem aggressive or territorial. This is where many beginner aquarists go wrong.

While docile and calm, many fish species are territorial when it comes to certain areas of their tanks. They can bite and attack other fish that come close to their declared "home".

Aggressive fish, such as the Siamese fighting fish (also known as bettas), are naturally aggressive and generally stay away from other fish (even their own species) to avoid potential losses. When choosing fish for your tank, it is essential to ensure that all species are compatible with each other. Good compatibility is one of the best ways to ensure that your aquarium is thriving and prosperous.

5. Replacing all of the aquarium water in a water change

When it comes time to clean, many beginners think it is good to remove all the water from their aquariums. This is an error that is sure to kill your fish.

Clearing all of the water from your tank removes the healthy bacteria your fish need to live and destroy its nitrogen cycle.

Water changes should be a slow and careful process to ensure that the water parameters do not become drastically unbalanced. In general, you should remove 20% of the water from your tank every 2 weeks. This amount helps you maintain a healthy pH, temperature, and nitrate balance, preventing fish from getting sick. Be sure to treat the new water and test its chemical levels (especially ammonia levels) before adding it to the aquarium. You can do this by using a water test kit and adding water conditioner to remove the chemicals added to tap water.

Bonus mistake!

Remember to add a lid to stop those pesky fish from escaping. This will also help with water evaporation.

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