Buying Fish 101

It’s always good to have a general idea of what fish you want before you go shopping, but leave room for some flexibility. The fish you seek may not be the size, shape or color you originally thought, or they might look unhealthy, or be unavailable.

-Tank Tip – The rule of thumb is one fish to a gallon. (Example, if you have a ten gallon tank, ten fish is the highest you should go.) However, sometimes you can bend this rule a bit. If you get small fish such as guppies, you might be able to do thirteen in your ten gallon, but this is as high as I would go. It also might be a good idea to only half fill your aquarium on your first fish shopping trip. This way you can see which fish you like best, how they act and if they are hardy enough for your tank.

Large pet stores such as Petsmart and Petco offer two week guarantees on their fish. That way, if your fish dies or you decide you don’t want it, you can return it. However I would be careful choosing where to buy your fish. Some places do not keep clean tanks and may have diseases in their aquariums. Local specialty fish stores are generally the best, but use your best judgement. Watch the fish. Are they

Fish with Fin Rot. Do not buy this fish!

swimming around pretty actively? Are there numerous dead fish in the tank? Is there evidence of fungus or disease in the tank?  Are there white spots on the fish’s fins or tails? If so, do not buy your fish at this location. Even if the fish you choose does not look unhealthy, if there is disease in the tank all the fish are at risk. They might not show the signs for several days.

Also, be careful when mixing different types of fish. Those labeled “community” are usually fine together. But be careful with fish marked “semi-aggressive” or “aggressive”. Ask a pet store specialist before mixing these types of fish in your tank.

-Tank Tip – The most popular fish for beginners are mollies, platies and guppy. All of these fish are live bearers, which simply means they give birth to live babies (called fry) instead of laying eggs. They also reproduce very rapidly. If you have a male and female of these fish, or if these fish have been kept in a tank with both sexes, you will eventually have fry. So keep this in mind.

When you select your fish, the store will put the fish into bags for you to take home. Moving is extremely traumatic for the fish, so after purchasing them, take them straight home. Try not to jostle the bags and watch your turns on the way home. Also, NEVER drop the bags!! It’s best to have someone hold the bags on the trip home to prevent rolling and shifting. When you get home, place

How to float bags in an aquarium

your fish bags into your tank and allow them to float for 5 to 10 minutes. This gives the fish time to adjust the water temperature.

When you release the fish into the tank, do not pour all the water from the bag into the tank. You can open the bag and use a net the catch the fish and transfer them into the aquarium, but that can be difficult. Open the top of the bag and drain water from the bag into a sink or cup. Leave only enough water for the fish to remain submerged. Then you can pour the fish and remaining water into your tank. When you add your fish to your tank, it’s best to add a few squirts of Stress Coat just to soothe the fish.

When you first set up an aquarium, you should expect some causalities. Fish are delicate animals. The move from pet store to your house, can be enough to kill them. Also, your water may not be balanced properly yet, which can cause for some difficulties. Sometimes the fish you bought, may have been sick to begin with. There are many reasons, but don’t beat yourself up. Ask the  professionals at your local fish store if you take severe losses in your first week, but if you have one or two deaths in the first few days here are some things to check.

  • Temperature – make sure that your tank is the temperature recommended for your fish. Most tropical fish can survive in water with a temperature from 72 degrees to 82 degrees, but a temperature of 77 degrees is ideal.
  • Water PH – most pet stores sell kits to check your water’s PH.
  • Water cleanliness
  • Food – You may be over feeding or feeding the wrong kind of food.
  • Other Fish – Watch your fish. Is one getting picked on by the others? Are one type of fish eating all the food? Are they just not working out together?

Happy shopping and enjoy your new pets!

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