If you are looking at purchasing an aquarium, are just starting in the aquarium hobby, or even if you have been in the aquarium hobby for awhile and wish to reminisce, check out our top 10 things to expect if you own an aquarium:

  1. Equipment Failure: Filters, lights, air pumps, heaters and water pumps can, and will, fail. It usually seems to happen late at night or on a weekend, so you need to be prepared with some type of back-up. Water movement is the most critical requirement for your fish, so it is always a good idea to have a spare powerhead or air pump and airstone to provide enough water movement to oxygenate the water. Perhaps the second most critical item would be the heater, as we would not want the temperature to drop too much if it breaks during the winter. Most other types of equipment failure can be dealt with at a later time, but water movement and temperature are too critical to wait. If you aquarium requires pre-mixed water, it is best to always have a reservoir of prepared water ready for a quick water change.
  2. Vacations: Sometime in the near future, you will need to leave the aquarium at home while you take a well deserved break. If at all possible, you will want to have someone trained (or a fellow fish keeper) that can stop by every couple of days to check on the aquarium and feed the fish. With a novice, it is best to pre-measure the food portions or use feeding blocks to try to avoid over feeding. You may also want to cut back on the lighting for a fish-only style tank to keep the fish more subdued. You will want to do any filter maintenance just before you leave and do a partial water change to improve water quality.
  3. Unexpected Arrivals: Depending on the types of fish you keep, there is a good chance that one day, you are going to suddenly find small babies or a batch of eggs in the tank. If you wish to try to raise the new arrivals, plan on another tank and special care to get the kids through puberty. Many a “fish room” got started this way! If not, be prepared to discuss why it is “survival of the fittest” in action to those who are faint of heart.
  4. Acts of God: Storms will come, and power will go out. Short term outages may not require any preparations, but if the power is out for more than a few hours, you are going to want to have a battery operated air pump to at least keep oxygen in the water. Old blankets can be wrapped around the tank to help keep in the heat. Depending on the types of filters, you will want to unplug them and either clean them or set them aside until the power comes back. If they sit for too long without power, the stagnant water in the filter will start to foul, and you would not want to pump it back into the aquarium. Placing the biomedia in the aquarium would be OK to keep the media active.
  5. Acts of Mortals: Unless you are a hermit, you will have guests, and they will want to see the fish. Well behaved guest are no problem, but your average not-well behaved guest can cause problems! These can range from pounding on the tank to get the fish’s attention, to seeing if the fish were thirsty and needed a beer! Large parties can actually cause a rise in the CO2 levels in the room that could affect the pH of the tank. Just the commotion around the tank can unsettle some fish. Be prepared to offer some TLC to the fish after the party.
  6. Acts of Tankmates:  As the fish mature in your aquarium, there may be dominance issues that develop between rival males for the affections of the females. Fish that peacefully got along are now in a constant state of aggression. Or, maybe you just have one happy mature pair that want to spawn, and all they want is the entire tank for themselves and chase everyone else into the corners. This is when it comes in handy to have more aquariums or friends who can take in misbehaving fish.
  7. Pushing the limits: Sometime in the not too distant future, you will try to fit in just one more fish that will upset the balance of the aquarium. Total chaos will usually follow, and you will spend hours attempting to right the ship and get everything back to normal. Then you will try to fit in just one more fish and…..
  8. You will want a bigger aquarium: Once you have “mastered” your current aquarium, you will start to plan a new challenge and want to take your aquarium hobby in a different direction. As you have discovered, bigger is usually better, as long as you don’t start eyeing putting the cars in the street and converting the garage into one big tank! (I have friends who have done this!) Strangely, it is usually easier to maintain a larger tank, as the larger filter system is more efficient and you are (slightly) less likely to overcrowd the larger aquarium.
  9. Something Totally Unexpected Will Occur: Since we are talking about something unexpected, I really cannot give much of a description. Someone sprays your apartment/house for bugs without telling you. You have a small kitchen fire, and they bail water from your aquarium to put it out. The chemicals given off by an air freshener sitting next to your air pump are concentrated in the aquarium and start stressing the fish. As it says, unexpected.
  10. Lastly, but Certainly Not the Least, YOU WILL DEVELOP ALGAE: There is no way around this. If you have water, light and fish wastes, you will have algae. Algae are totally natural and do not harm the fish. It can overgrow real plants and corals, but otherwise it is just unsightly to us. Fortunes can be spent trying to control or eliminate algae, but at best we can try to keep it in check. Keeping nitrate and phosphate levels as low as possible will help. Depending on your set-up, you might be able to “cultivate” the algae on the back wall of the tank to help starve out algae trying to grow somewhere else. You will most likely take one of two modes of cleaning, constantly scraping it off the glass with OCD dedication, or waiting until you cannot see through the glass before you chisel it from the glass.

About The Author Don Roberts

comments (5)

  • Nice posting! Thanks for sharing this valuable information, i think many of them must not be aware of this things.

  • Hi i have a question, I have a 10 gallon aquarium with 4 cory catfish and 1 snail. I have had several responses on how often you need to vacuum and clean the tank. I clean the tank weekly (approx. 25-30% water change) and I use an aquarium vacuum. I test the water for amonia, nitrites, nitrates, etc. every couple of weeks, unless the water gets cloudy or a fish has died. I have not had any problems with those testings. I have been told that the tank is cleaned too often and that cleaning it that much gets rid of the good bacteria that is in the tank. I want the tank to be clean and the water clear, but do not want to take out the good bacteria. The fish seem healthy, but unfortunately, it is hard to tell unless you lose a fish and I do not want that.

  • Hi Steve –
    Our Live Deliveries Manager suggests three different ways to approach water changes and gravel vacuuming: 1) 10% water change a week without vacuuming the gravel, then vacuum gravel 1 time per month; 2) vacuum all the gravel 1 time per month, and the vacuuming would take out about 25% of the water for a water change; or 3) Vacuum gravel twice each month, doing a gravel vac on one side the first time and then vacuuming the other side the second time, with the gravel vac taking out water for your water change. Basically, with your size of aquarium, just doing a gravel vac will accomplish part of the water change, since the water you remove while vacuuming will be about 10% – 25% of your water. You do not want to do much more than what the three methods suggest for the very reason you state – you are losing good bacteria. Cloudy water can sometimes be a bacteria bloom, indicating that you need to get your good bacteria built up. Keeping water "clean" for your fish is important, but also consider that so many water changes and so much changed water can cause unnecessary stress to your fish, which can cause illnesses. Good luck!

  • i have a 10 gallon fish tank for my children in our livingroom and no matter if i vacume the rocks and clean it the next day the water is so cloudy u cant see the fish in the tank it always looks dirty i even bought this stuff called Start Right and everything i do dosent work, my children and me and my husband love the tank but it looks dirty all the time and the fish die the only fish that has lived is our Algie eater please help us to save our fish and have a clean tank. Thank you sincerely the Lane family

  • Billie, I sent you an email. Sorry to take so long to respond – I didn't see your comment!

    Thanks –
    Kristen

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