5 Mistakes Newbies Make When Setting Up A Tropical Fish Tank 29

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SettingUpATropicalFishTank

Setting up a tropical fish tank is a great hobby, but many newcomers who enter this field have many myths and misconceptions floating around in their mind. If not cleared, these can be dangerous and even expensive when it comes to fish keeping.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Prakash Ganguly from BettaLove.com. This is the first guest post ever posted on Home Aquaria, and Prakash has some great tips for you readers today in avoiding the common mistake newcomers make when setting up a tropical fish tank.

Here are 5 common mistakes newcomers are likely to make while setting up a tropical fish tank in their home.

#1 – Picking up the wrong tank size

Fish tank size is a debatable issue in itself. Everyone has their own freedom and money to spend while picking up a fish tank. But I’m going to show you a secret that will help you to pick the correct size of the fish tank for your home.

Don't pick a tank that's too small

Don’t pick a tank that’s too small

Treat your fish tank as your another TV and then decide it’s size. I know this advice sounds a little weird, but try it.

If you treat the fish tank as your TV, you won’t pick it too small and at the same time you won’t pick it too big as well. Just think about it.

When the fish tank gets occupied with beautiful scenery, water and fish swimming around it will be a beautiful display in your living room, which will make you proud and you’ll be eager to show it to your friends and guests. It will become another object as the rest of the objects in your interior space.

Every object or artifact in your interior space has some proportions and relation to each other and same is true with the fish tank as well. If it’s too big, it will demand a lot of visual attention and if it’s too small, it will look like wasted space. That is why treating it like a second TV will make you think twice as a visual element.

#2 – Placing your fish tank at the wrong location

Many newcomers pay very less attention to the location of the fish tank. A lot of things are necessary to look for before you place it and fill it with water. Once it gets filled, it becomes very difficult to disturb all the decoration and move it around because of it’s heavy weight.

Here are simple set of rules that if you follow, will make your life easier in the long run. Picking up a location affects both fish and humans that are going to watch the fish from outside.

  • Never keep your fish tank where direct sunlight falls on it’s surface. Sunlight also carries heat with it and this can alter water temperature if kept for a long time. Constant alterations in water temperatures can definitely stress out your fish and even kill them.
  • Never keep your fish tank directly on ground level or floor level. People who are walking by, may accidently kick the fish tank and break it. If you have kids at home then they may drop toys and even food into the fish tank water causing big trouble. If you have other pets like cats and dogs then they may attack the fish for no apparent reason or even curiousity.
  • Another very important reason for not keeping the fish tank on the floor level is vibrations caused by walking, running and people passing by. Fish are very sensitive to vibrations and even little of these can cause stress.
  • If you home happens to be near a busy street with constant vehicular traffic then this can even cause trouble, so don’t keep it near windows and other openings.
  • Avoid smoking in the room where you have placed your fish tank. The reason is, most fish tanks are equipped with an air pump that sucks room air and flows in the water to form bubbles. These bubbles will carry the smoke from the room as well, which is obviously deadly for the fish. If you can’t totally void smoking then at least make sure to suck in air from a place where there is no smoke around.
  • It’s better if you place your fish tank at 4 feet level above the ground level or floor level. This will be a comfortable viewing distance and at the time of cleaning the tank you’ll be able to work out things properly.
  • Pick up a firm stand or table for your fish tank. If you pick up a wooden table then check that it does not wobble after you fill it completely with water.

#3 – Not giving attention to essential fish tank accessories

I have seen this mistake happen many times with newcomers. Most people and newcomers pay attention to how beautiful their fish tank looks, but forget to provide the most essential equipment for keeping their fish tank healthy.

It’s good to have a beautifully decorated fish tank with colorful fish swimming around, but fish are living beings and they need care and patience to keep healthy and for this to happen, it’s absolutely necessary to understand what’s the most essential equipment you must have.

Surprisingly newcomers will spend money on making their tank look beautiful and buy the most expensive fish species that look awesome, but won’t spend money on what’s absolutely necessary for the sake of fish’s health.

Here is what you must have in a tropical fish tank:

  • Aquarium heater – As tropical fish need warmer water (78F approx.), the heater solves this problem. Once you install the heater, you must never turn it off. The heater with a built-in thermostat is the best choice to start with. The thermostat will prevent overheating or freezing of water.

     Read: 6 Best Aquarium Heaters For Your Fish Tank

  • Aquarium thermometer – Apart from the heater, the thermometer will help you to constantly monitor water temperature and changes in temperature as well. If for some reason the heater malfunctions, then the thermometer will always be there to notify you of current water temperatures. The most preferred one is the digital thermometer which has a probe dipped into tank water and the digital display hangs out on the fish tank wall giving you exact reading of the fish tank water temperature.
  • Fish tank filter – Filers are necessary for obvious reasons. Fish eat food and produce solid waste in the tank itself. The filter helps to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness in the fish tank.

Not having a fish tank filter is same as keeping your own son or daughter without a diaper. Would you accept that?

Treat you fish like your baby and your attitude will suddenly change towards this hobby. Just having the fish tank filter is not enough though. You must craft a schedule for cleaning the fish tank water every week once so that your fish gets the best habitat to remain healthy.

Here are some optional accessories for your fish tank. If you are tight on budget then you may not invest in these right now.

  • Aquarium lighting – Whether you must have lighting or not is a debatable issue. If you put live plants in the aquarium then lighting becomes essential as the lights help growth of plants in the fish tank. Live plants in the fish tank also help to sustain the ecosystem by exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

     Additional tip: Avoid keeping lights on too much and always use a timer.

Aquariumtips03

  • Decorating ornaments – This includes gravel at the bottom of the fish tank, hideouts, ceramic pots, houses, bridges and any other ornaments that will add visual beauty. Though these make your fish tank an excellent visual attraction, you may skip these things if your budget is tight and introduce them later.
  • Exotic fish species – There are some fish species that cost much more than the rest of the community. You’ll find some species costing like $100 per pair. You need not include these while starting out and go with the easily available ones.

#4 – Choosing the wrong stock

This point is very important and is ignored by many newcomers. Not every fish will live with any other fish species in a fish tank. It’s called fish compatibility and as a newcomer you must study or at least ask an expert fish keeper before you buy fish from the local fish store.

As a general rule, don’t buy fish which will fit in the mouth of another bigger fish in the tank. The bigger one is most likely to eat the smaller one. Also make sure to check how big they grow (in inches) when they become adults. Some fish grow rapidly in size and some slower. Paying attention to this future growth will pay off in the long run.

#5 – Not cleaning and maintaining the fish tank frequently

Regular water changes is crucial

Regular water changes is crucial

I agree everyone of us is lazy and put off the idea of cleaning or maintaining things. Whether it’s cleaning your furniture or car or anything else, most people want someone else to do it. But not with your fish tank

There are living beings in your fish tank that need attention.

Remember what I said above, treat your fish as your own son or daughter and see how your attitude changes drastically.

The truth is, cleaning a fish tank is a simple process and requires not more than 20 minutes of your time per week. Yes, once in week for 20 minutes is nothing as compared to what satisfaction you get just by viewing this beautiful fish tank of yours, which will make you happy for years to come.

So commit to yourself about following a tight schedule every week to keep your “son and daughter fish” happy and give them the life they deserve.

Just look at it this way, fish are supposed to live and swim freely in the wild but we put them in fish tanks. A fish tank is nothing as compared to the expanse they get in river beads and ocean depths. But they don’t complain, they keep on entertaining us for years.

It’s our duty to look after them as our babies and provide them the best habitat they can have, based on our expertise. So strive to give them your best with the right knowledge and dedication.

Over To You

If you’re still having trouble after going through the tips given above, let us know in the comments section below. The hobby is full with helpful people and we don’t bite.

If you have any other tips to share with newbies when setting up a tropical fish tank, feel free to share it below too!

About Prakash Ganguly

Prakash Ganguly is a tropical fish enthusiast and loves to share his knowledge and experience at BettaLove.com. Visit today to get all the detailed information you about setting up your own beautiful betta fish tank..

29 thoughts on “5 Mistakes Newbies Make When Setting Up A Tropical Fish Tank

  1. Reply Janet Sep 19,2014 2:40 am

    I was wondering if I’m doing something wrong because my fish keep dying. I’ve had goldfish and they all died. I’ve had red roses and guppies but those died too. What am I doing wrong? The water tests fine. There’s a filter and a bubbler in the tank.

    • Reply Prakash Sep 20,2014 5:35 pm

      Hi Janet,

      There’s too little information here to really answer this. A fish tank is a combination of so many things like water temperature, food quality, cleaning schedule, size of the tank and what species can live with each other (fish compatibility)

      You have already mentioned that the water tests fine.

      What kind of food do you feed them?
      Are you feeding them too much and too often?
      What’s the average water temperature in your fish tank?
      How often do your clean your fish tank?
      Have you checked fish compatibility? Gold fish love cold water but guppies are tropical fish and require warmer water.

      What you can do is try changing one thing at a time and record everything till you create the exact habitat the fish will love.

  2. Reply Christie Oct 14,2014 5:11 pm

    Hi! I was wondering what is the best way to upgrade to a larger tank? Do I need to use the water they are in now? I’m going from a 20 gal to a 60 gal. What are the steps I should take to start the transfer? I planned on running the 20 gal filter with the new filter for 3 or 4 weeks to help with the beneficial bacterial.

  3. Reply Prakash Oct 16,2014 12:00 pm

    Here are some steps for upgrading to a larger tank.

    1) First clean your existing tank using a siphon tube so that you don’t carry any solid waste and toxics into the new tank along with transferring water.

    2) Place your new tank at a position where it does not receive direct sunlight, vibration of any kind

    3) First shift water from the old tank to a bucket along with the fish with s fish net. The bucket should not have any soap residues.

    4) Transfer all the necessary decorations like pebbles, gravel, caves etc to the new tank and then start adding the some water fro the bucket into the new tank. DO NOT add fish yet, keep them in bucket

    5) Install filter from the old tank to the new tank.

    6) During this standby time your fish is still in the bucket with some old water. You may add an air pump to the bucket to encourage some oxygen exchange for the fish.

    7) During this time store some water for the new tank ann decholrinate it. You can start one day earlier for this too. Start adding this dechlorinated water to the new tank and fill to till the desired level. Since water temperature for the new water is colder than the existing older water there will be some imbalance of temperature. To solve this now star t the heater and let it run till the thermometer shows your desired temperature reading.

    8) In the end, shift fish from bucket to the new tank. Keep testing water with a testing kit to ensure water chemistry is good.

    So answer to your original question

    “Do I need to use the water they are in now?” YES you can use some of the water and the new decholrinated water for a 60 gallons tank.

  4. Reply Christie Oct 17,2014 4:53 pm

    Thanks for the step by step info! The transition went pretty smoothly. How often should I test my water, everyday or weekly?

    The fish seem to be really happy with the bigger tank! At first, I don’t think they knew what to do with all that extra space. They all were hanging out together on one side of the tank, then a few got brave and started venturing out. LOL!

    Again, thanks for the help!

  5. Reply Prakash Oct 20,2014 9:37 am

    Hi,

    Just like you have a water cleaning schedule; it’s best to have a “water testing schedule” too. Testing fish tank water once a week is highly recommended.

  6. Reply Veronique Oct 20,2014 11:48 am

    Hi there,

    I’ve started my freshwater fish tank with live plants about three or four weeks ago. Temperature is between 70-80F, Lighting is 8hrs/day and I add Flourish Excel & Flourish Potassium to my water when I change it every other week. I also have Flourish tabs (in gravel). I feed my fish one time/day and I vary the types of food I give them (flakes, pellets, blood worms, tubifex worms). pH is neutral (6.8-7.2), Kh is moderate (80-120ppm), hardness seems a little high (150-300ppm), nitrite is between 0.5-1ppm (says caution) and nitrate is fine. I’m suppposed to change my filter this week also.

    Got any tips for the hardness and nitrite levels? I have neon tetras and blue rams as well as a green cory. 9 fish is a 10 gallon tank.

    My other little issue here is that I have a red plant, not sure I remember the name though, and she is growing roots on the length of the plant like there’s not tomorrow. I’m wondering if that is normal or if I’d have to add extra iron in the water to help with this density? The new leaves are more red than the bottom ones, so I’m guessing that there was a lack of it at the beginning when I started my tank…

    Thanks a bunch!

  7. Reply Prakash Oct 23,2014 12:01 pm

    Hi Veronique,

    As per your comment above.

    1) Temperature looks between 70-80F is good, but if your surrounding temperature in the room where your fish tank is located is a little cooler then this will affect the water temperature in fish tank as well. Make sure you keep it towards 75-80F.

    2) Lighting 8 hrs/day looks good

    3) About Flourish Excel. The truth is I have never used it for a planted tank, but from what I know it’s primarily used to keep away algae. It’s considered a good product and most people with planted tanks prefer it.

    4) Fish food looks good too, but frequency (one time per day) looks a little more to me.

    5) Ph levels 6.8 to 7.2 looks ok. But if you have Neon tetras then the recommended ph is 5.5 to 6.2

    6) Kh is moderate (80-120ppm). Looks ok too.

    7) Now you have problems with water hardness. Your tests show 150-300ppm which is definitely high. For these numbers, water is considered very hard. For neon tetras water must be “soft” to “medium-hard” (soft 60-120ppm, medium-hard 120-180ppm.). It is actually difficult to reduce water hardness but lowering the ph value will effect in reducing hardness as well. One recommendation is to use RO (reverse osmosis) water.

    8) If nitrite levels are high then there are many causes for this. Try increasing frequency of water changes till it gets settled. Also at the same time try reducing feeding frequency.

    9) Can’t comment much about the plant with red leaves. Here is a complete list of aquatic plants with photos. You’ll be able to exactly identify which plant it is.
    http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/plantfinder/all.php

  8. Reply JS Jan 9,2015 10:44 pm

    What’s the name pf the fish in the article picture?

    Thank you in advance

  9. Reply Senga Jun 10,2015 10:34 pm

    Hi I have cold water fish and I want to no how often do I clean the water

  10. Reply josh Oct 21,2015 9:33 pm

    Im planning on adding plants to my 10 gal fish tank is it ok to add regular plants from home depot is their a process to clean them and add them to the tank please help

  11. Reply george Nov 5,2015 3:29 pm

    The most common reasons for early fish deaths is the fact that fish will wee and poo into the water they live in. This builds up over the first few days or weeks and will hit a critical point where fish will die. The short term solution is have less fish, feed less and do daily partial water changes. The long term solution is to have a sponge based filter which will develop bacteria that will eat the fish waste products. Another cause of fish deaths is feeding more food than the fish can eat. This falls to the bottom and rots polluting the water again killing off fish.

  12. Reply angela Nov 21,2015 8:25 pm

    i want to know if i can put my light on the bottom of the tank i am going to have goldfish

  13. Reply Prakash Dec 7,2015 4:30 pm

    There are many aspects to consider while picking up lighting for goldfish tank.

    First of all why do you want to put light at the bottom of the tank? Please elaborate the reason why you want to do this.

    1 )Just imagine this, if you fix lights at the bottom of the tank how will it lit up the tank if you put sand at the bottom of the tank. All the sand and any other decoration items will completely block light rays and you’ll waste money and even electricity.

    Even if you have no decorating items and not even sand at the bottom you’ll require a glass top table to achieve this.

    2) While picking up lights make sure, the applied lighting does not heat up water because gold fish live in cool water and not hot water like tropical fish. A table with glass top to make it stronger will require a much thicker glass and this can definitely make uneven lighting condition or even a magnifying effect which is not recommended.

  14. Reply madison Dec 22,2015 4:01 pm

    Help!! I was adding water to our fish tank and some water splashed on one of the lights/fans hanging above the water. That light and the other light next to it (that didn’t even get wet) both went out a few seconds later. This was a little over an hour ago and the lights are still out. Can I unplug everything and plug it back in? Any recommendations as to what to do?? Thanks!!

    • Reply Prakash Dec 24,2015 4:49 pm

      First, how are the lights fixed?

      Are the lights under a separate removable hood? If yes, then you can safely remove the hood and cover the tank temporarily with a bigger sized cardboard or equivalent surface. However make sure nothing falls in the fish tank water when you cover it temporarily. Inspect the hood and let it dry for some time. Check if the lights are working after a few hours.

  15. Reply Cassie Jan 4,2016 4:30 am

    Hi I have a beta fish and he never seems to move around I have tried moving him almost everywhere what do I do? I recently cleaned out his whole tank because I thought he was getting sick? How do I know if he is sick or not

    • Reply Prakash Jan 4,2016 4:35 pm

      It is difficult to tell without knowing any of the details about your betta fish tank, like it’s size and other essential equipment you may or may not have installed, but I’ll try to answer.

      Signs of sickness in a betta fish

      1) Fading color or no color at all.
      2) Lethargy and very less movement around the tank.
      3) Sick bettas will have holes in their fins and even they are close to the body.
      4) Sometimes he will not eat.
      5) If he is sick he will try to breathe air from top of tank (by putting mouth outside of water)
      6) Is he scratching body to plants or tank walls?
      7) White spots on the body. Not the whole body but front portion of the body may have white spots.

      As you have mentioned your betta has become lethargic. You can do two things

      1) Get a water testing kit specifically for aquariums and test your water. Check for all of the following and see if they are within levels.

      pH, Hardness, Alkalinity, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate

      2) I assume that you already have a heater installed, if not get it immediately. Bettas are tropical fish and need a constant temperature of 78-82 degrees just like they have in the wild.

      3) 50% water changes for a few days.

  16. Reply jingheng Feb 29,2016 2:06 pm

    may i know why does my pleco loves to paste its body against the airstone that it is pumping air out.Does it needs more oxygen?Or it is absolutely fine.My other fish like a american tiger fish is doing fine.and when i move the air pump away from the pleco,the pleco will follow suit.

  17. Reply Joshua Apr 29,2016 7:35 pm

    Do I treat my tank before or after I put in live plants?

  18. Reply Pughierally Jul 7,2016 5:03 pm

    Hiya guys need some help, I’ve got a 75L tank and I want to put a Beta fish in there, but I think the filter is way to powerful. I know they don’t like a lot of current and I’m wondering what the best way is to reduce the current flow? I have a control of the air intake pipe but it doesn’t seem to have any affect? Is there anything I can do with that?

    Thanks guys!

  19. Reply Pete Sep 4,2016 11:21 pm

    Hi my tank was new up and running 2 weeks before. I got my first 3 fish clown loach. Have it well aired with 2x air stones have a bio filter with great flow. Trying to keep this short. But yeah had the loach 2 weeks all seem to be going great. Api tester 5 in 1 kit all was on ideal to chart. So went to shop got me 6x cardinal tetra 2x dwarf sucker mouths 6xcherry barbs. Climitised as supposed to. Few days in I noticed cherry barbs gasping for air did another test was good also. A day later I noticed a break out of spots imidietly realised they had freaking ich.. 😔 So went got api white spot treatment removed all rocks and media from filter this treatment is a 2 part treatment. 4days then a 15% water change then a further 4 days 😔 All fish have become stressed in this period of treating. Wiped out all 6 cherry barbs which truly not happy about. but rest are still with me thankfully so now I have done a 30% water change put all plants decor back in etc… All seem fine but one loach. Seems to be just not moving at all much just hovers a little near front of tank as if saying help something is wrong. Is there anything I can do now! Or do I just let all settle over next week! Or do I get some live bacteria and add to me pets home! Any help appreciated many thanks in advance.

  20. Reply Reagan Sep 8,2016 3:06 am

    Hey Guys! So my boyfriend has a fish tank that he’s had since he was a kid. It’s a huge tank (can’t remember the gallon size) but the water keeps turning green! We have taken a sample of the water to pet stores and they can’t find anything but poop in the water. I’ve also removed it from any sunlight, that hasn’t helped, I’ve changed the filters, check the water temp all the time and it’s normal, I’ve tried thousands of different water treatments and nothing is helping! So last week we got rid of the tank and tried out another one with the same fish but a smaller tank and its green again! There is no algae on the rocks or decorative pieces in the tank it’s just the water turns grass green! However my boyfriends brother smokes in the house, do you think that could have something to do with it? Thanks in advance!!

  21. Reply Pranu Oct 3,2016 11:37 pm

    Do you have to have rocks in betta fishes tanks?
    Thank you!

  22. Reply Pranu Oct 3,2016 11:40 pm

    I think the only way is to get a less power full filter

  23. Reply Zana Oct 6,2016 11:38 pm

    I was wondering how long it would take after putting in aquatic plants in my tank will it take to get them to do their thing in terms of aiding me in keeping the water ideal for my guppies. (I did a 50 percent water change yesterday because of high ammonia levels and will do a 20 percent tomorrow.)

    I was also thinking of changing my mixed substrate and gravel to pure substrate. (The substrate makes the water look much more clearier after I added it in yesterday and find I like it better then the colorful gravel rocks.) Had I known this, I would have bought substrate only about 3 weeks ago.

  24. Reply Zana Oct 10,2016 10:29 pm

    Hi,
    I have five fantail guppies, two dalmation lyretail mollies and three corycats. I also have three java ferns. (One is a different Java fern.)

    Anyways, I’ve noticed that Mollies needed some salt in their environment and so I bought Aquarium salt. My question is, the directions say add 1 rounded tablespoon for every 5 US gallons. I have a 20 gallon tank and I read the corycats can’t tolerate too much salt. So, I added in only 1 tablespoon.

    Is that enough for the Mollies to be happy and yet not enough to harm my live plants and corycats? Also, will it help kill any harmful fungus should some arrive or will I need to treat my tank once a month with fungus cure from API?

    Can I add a little more salt to the aquarium w/o any harm to the corycats and plants?

    Because of my schedule, I do a 50 percent water change one time a week, and a 25 percent a few days after to help keep my tank happy and healthy. (I’m also waiting for my live plants to start helping me out once they get rooted.) How long do I have to wait until my plants start doing their part?

    Is this enough water change or do I need to make it three times a week?
    Sorry for the questions. I’ve tried my luck at a fish forum for help, but no one has responded to me and all the posts I’ve read that I thought would retain to my questions don’t really help.

    Thanks,

  25. Reply Lori Oct 24,2016 4:22 pm

    Also a tank needs to be cycled before adding fish. If you do not do this your fish will all die.

    Don’t feed your fish everyday unless you are willing to do more water changes!

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