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Choosing The Right Fish For Your Aquarium

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 23 Sep 2015 | comments*Discuss
Choosing The Right Fish For Your Aquarium

Once you've got your tropical fish aquarium all set up you'll be ready to choose the fish to go in it. Doubtless you began with certain kinds of fish in mind - one with interesting habits, perhaps; or really active and entertaining ones; or tropical fish that are exotic and beautiful to look at. Whatever your preferences, this is the point at which you have to reconcile them with what you can reasonably expect to look after.

It's fair to say that some kinds of tropical fish are really not for beginners, whilst others have difficulty surviving, even with the best care, unless they're placed in a mature, established aquarium. Don't be disheartened by this. Everybody has to start somewhere, and practice is the best way to learn the skills you'll need for more challenging choices. Don't be foolish and try to take on fish you're not ready for, or they'll just end up dying. In the meantime, there are plenty of other interesting fish to choose from. Some of the most dynamic and attractive species are also among the hardiest. Keeping tropical fish like this is not just about developing your skills as an aquarist - it can be highly rewarding in itself.

Fish Compatibility

In selecting a group of fish to live together in a fish tank, you'll need to make sure that they can all be comfortable in the same habitat and that they can all be comfortable with each other.

Never buy tropical fish just because they grab your attention when you're in the shop - always do your research first, even if you do it by talking to the staff and looking at their books. You'll need to determine what water parameters they prefer. Do they like acid or alkaline water? How salty should it be? What temperature range are they happy in? You'll also need to find out how much space they'll need and how their fish tank should be decorated. Do they need sand to burrow in? Do they need hiding places? Do they need a lot of plants, or do they prefer open space? If you plan to keep several different species of fish in your aquarium, make sure you can match these factors as closely as possible.

Fish Feeding Requirements

Another thing you'll need to know about your tropical fish is their feeding requirements. It's possible to keep some kinds of fish with very different feeding habits in the same aquarium, but you'll need to make sure that all of them are capable of competing sufficiently to get enough to eat. If most of your tropical fish are aggressive surface feeders, for instance, pellets for your bottom-dwelling fish may never reach their intended targets. Live food which is essential for some kinds of fish may represent a health risk for others. Try to choose a group of tropical fish who will be able to stay healthy together without stealing each other's food.

Diet And Your Fish

When considering what fish eat, it's also worth bearing in mind that a lot of them are happy to eat each other. If you choose to keep carnivorous or omnivorous fish you should make sure that none of your other tropical fish look like tasty snacks to them. In most cases this simply means that none of your fish should be less than half the length of the largest, but a few species can manage bigger meals than this, so - again - do your research. You should also be wary of aggressive fish who will take little bites out of others who are not inclined to stand up for themselves. Angel fish and cichlids are notorious for this. Fish with long, trailing fins are particularly vulnerable. Try to match your fish for temperament so that aggression in the fish tank will be met with aggression - not to the point of fighting, but to the point where bullies know when to back off.

Territorial Aggression In Fish

Aside from hunger and social dominance, fish will sometimes attack each other due to their breeding instincts. With many species it is inadvisable to keep more than one male in the same aquarium,, and in these cases you should also be wary of keeping other tropical fish with similar colours, as these can trigger the male's reflexive territorial aggression. Do your research and try to keep the appropriate number of females to males for any given species, even if the males have more exotic colours and you keep feeling tempted to purchase more.

Sad to say, many people do stock their tropical aquariums by choosing several exotic looking species and just hoping they'll get along. This almost always ends in disaster; but a well chosen selection of fish whose needs you understand can bring you pleasure for many long years.

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DanK1326 - Your Question:
I have three catfish, one keeps on jumping out of the tank, is there any reason why? The others seem OK and don't seem to feel the need to escape.

Our Response:
Some catfishes have the ability to survive for quite a while out of the water, and this is largely due to their ability to utilize atmospheric oxygen. It means they may jump if they are being hunted, or picked on my another fish, if the tank is too small, or the water quality is poor. However, the latter would see your other catfish jumping too and you say they seem to be OK. I hope this helps.
TropicalFishExpert - 24-Sep-15 @ 12:05 PM
I have three catfish, one keeps on jumping out of the tank, is there any reason why? The others seem OK and don't seem to feel the need to escape.
DanK1326 - 23-Sep-15 @ 2:18 PM
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