In the aquarium hobby, whether you are a beginner or a pro, you will always make mistakes. You’re human, it will happen. Here are some of the 10 most common mistakes people will make with their aquariums. Learn from this!

  1. Overcrowding the aquarium: While we do our best to provide a comfortable home for our fish; offering lighting, heat, filtration and various ornaments/plants to interact with, we also tend to put in too many fish. This can lead to stress, poor health and sometimes fighting.
  2. Overfeeding the fish: “But they look hungry” is an all too often common plea heard when discussing how much to feed the fish. Nearly everyone feeds too much food.  Small, community fish should be fed twice a day, but only as much as they can eat in 3 minutes or so. Larger fish could easily eat just every other day.
  3. Neglect partial water changes: “The solution to pollution is dilution,” is the creed aquarists need to follow. Too often, the hobbyist will argue that the aquarium is large enough that they do not need to do a partial water change as often, if at all, especially since the water is still clear! I would hear that all the time back when I had my store. I do not mean to be crude, but my usual answer was “I don’t care how big the toilet is, you are eventually going to flush it!”
  4. Neglect to nip a problem in the bud: Admittedly, this is a skill that is easier to have with more experience, but all fish keepers should notice when something just isn’t “right”. It might be the beginning of a disease outbreak or breakdown of an important piece of equipment. Much like to old “canary in a coal mine”, some types of fish will always be the first to show symptoms. Nearly all diseases are easier to treat if you start to treat immediately, not after a few days.
  5. Misdiagnose or over treat the problem:  Since few hobbyists are pathologists, knowing exactly what we are treating will always be a challenge. General bacterial infections involve red, open sores, ragged fins or blood streaks in the fins. They are often accompanied by fungal infections (living on the dead cells) that have a cotton candy appearance. These types are of infections are fairly easy to treat with broad spectrum antibiotics or products like all-natural Melafix. Parasitic infestations can be seen as white dots on the body/fins, or as larger anchor worms or flukes attached to the body. Parasites are much more contagious than bacterial infections and will require that the entire aquarium is treated for at least two weeks. Parasite treatments require careful dosing and have limitations as to what types of fish they can treat. Most cannot be used with live plants, corals or invertebrates. When treating for any type of malady, more is not better when it comes to medications. Be sure to follow the instructions and give a full term treatment.
  6. Misjudge the temperament of a fish: Many aquarist have fallen victim of the “it is so cute, I have to have it” purchase of a fish without learning about the fish first. Six months later, it is no longer cute and has discovered it can swallow half of the fish in the tank. Or, maybe you buy several small, unsexed Cichlids, and once they mature, you have multiple males fighting for dominance of the tank.  If you have not planned for this, total chaos will follow.
  7. Fail to offer proper nutrition: While most manufacturers have formulated their fish foods to offer a good balance of nutrition, you would still need to use several different types to be sure the fish are getting proper nutrition. A mix of flake, pellets, frozen and even fresh foods would be best. Too often the hobbyist falls into a habit and just repetitively feeds the same food.
  8. Failing to be prepared: Emergencies will arise and the hobbyist needs to be ready to solve the problem as soon as possible. Basic medications should be kept so you can start treatment right away, not give the disease a couple of day’s head start before you start treatment. Keeping a spare air pump or small water pump to replace any failed equipment until it can be permanently replaced will avoid headaches and stress on your fish. A spare heater is also a must.
  9. Making something too complex: Most aspects of this hobby are fairly straight forward and, with a little experience, easy to do. There are sophisticated filter systems that might be more efficient but if they are more complex than you are comfortable with, you will tend to delay maintenance to the detriment of the fish and your aquarium.
  10. Failing to be patient: This is perhaps the greatest mistake most hobbyists make.  They jump into a project without thinking the process all the way through, or they rush to add more fish to a new system before the bio-filtration system is mature enough to handle the new fish.  Or they panic and want everything to be immediately “right” and start looking for solutions to “problems” that will go away over time.  Sometimes, it is best to just step back from the aquarium and relax; take the time to enjoy your tropical paradise for your fish.

About The Author Don Roberts

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