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Fish tank tips for beginners

You need some fish tank tips for beginners because you know that one of the best ways of always having a part of nature in your home is a fish tank. A variety of colorful, cheerful inhabitants moving fervently in front of you will relax and cheer you up and at the same time help you forget your everyday problems. Every aquaristics lover can confirm this, moreover, all family members will have the opportunity to learn about fish life. You can agree that a little fish tank is more than beneficial.

Many parents start with buying an aquarium for their children rather than a dog or a cat. Before you start it’s necessary to find out what is required for your fish of choice.  If you didn’t choose your fish yet, read our blog about the type of aquarium fish and which one you should get for the beginning. It’s all pretty simple because you won’t have a lot of responsibilities nor expenses except for the initial preparation. It’s implied that you won’t start with the most expensive or the most demanding fish.

When you decide to buy an aquarium, you can choose from a plethora of exotic species of fish. Not only different for their living conditions (temperature, acidity, ph. value, aeration, and the brightness of their living space) but for their lifestyle and behavior.

Don’t forget it’s necessary to provide them with the best possible conditions so that they are always healthy and cheerful. Try to think about the tank size. Where you are going to place it, what plants you will use for decoration… Keep in mind that a 3-4 cm fish requires 3-5 liters of water.

realistic fish tank background decorated with our 3D background

Fish tank preparation

Before you fill the tank with water it’s necessary to place it in the right place. You mustn’t put it in a sunny place or in the vicinity of windows and electric appliances.

The best place for the fish tank is the darkest corner of the room. Also, you need to make sure that the stand is strong enough and the artificial lighting is adequate. It’s better not to improvise regarding the electrical power source (220V) which will supply the lighting. The safest way is to buy a lamp made for the tank which will have the right support/carrier and the appropriate isolation of cables and switches.

First, you put the right substrate into the aquarium and then the equipment – water filter, heater, air pump, and plants, as well as clay hiding spots. There are different types of filters depending on the size of the aquarium (and price i.e. quality). The best option is the multilayered external filter with the same depth and height as the tank. At first, even an internal filter with 3-4 layers of purifier will be enough. It’s important to change the charcoal at estimated time intervals.  You can read more about aquarium filters and their advantages in one of our previous blog posts.

When you arrange everything, slowly pour the water which sat for 3-5 days and lost the smell of substances used for the filtering and possible dirt residue that fell to the bottom. It is recommended to filter the water for 24 hours and heat it to an adequate temperature prior to putting the fish in. The water will probably darken (lose its transparency) in the first two weeks only to get its original color and transparency back after a few days. Don’t worry about it or change anything because every tank (mini-ecosystem) has to survive this maturing phase. After that, you can buy the fish. If you want to have a 3D aquarium background you can visit our shop page.

Recommendation for beginners

Choose the type of fish you know at least something about and keep them nourished, lively and cheerful. Talk with the vendor who will most often gladly tell you the fish origin, age, type of food, and character (you can’t combine all species because of their temperament). Every fish that you buy should go through quarantine and live in a separate bowl for at least 14 days. That way, you will see if the fish is sick in time and save the rest of the inhabitants of your fish tank. The same goes for the plants you bought. You should firstly disinfect them with a mild potassium permanganate solution (hypomanganate) and then rinse it with clean water and leave it for 3-4 days in a separate water bowl.

Feeding your new fish

Don’t be in a hurry to feed the fish as soon as you bring them home. Starving for 3-4 days will do them less damage than giving them the wrong food. You should feed fish once a day and they shouldn’t starve. Give them a pinch of food several times – the amount they can eat in 10 minutes without leftovers – because the most common beginner problem is giving them a larger amount of food than they need. 

It’s not a bad idea to make a feeder or buy one. It is a plastic hose with 4-5mm diameter and connected ends so that the water doesn’t get into it and it can float on the surface. Doing this will stop the food from spreading through the water. Also, it will prevent parts from falling to the bottom and start to decompose without fish noticing them. With feeders, you can efficiently control that the fish ate all the food you gave them.

fish tank - beginners tips for fish

The temperature in the fish tank should always be the same. You shouldn’t allow variations bigger than 2-3 degrees recommended. Bear in mind that different species require different conditions so there are combinations that you shouldn’t keep in the same aquarium.

Plants don’t have only an aesthetic purpose in the tank. It’s very important that the fish have somewhere to hide from each other.

Do you transfer the fish from one tank to the other by hand?

Avoid it or be careful… Your warm and dry skin can scald the fish’s body, the slime that protects their body can be stuck to the hand and in some parts, there could be wounds. Also, human skin contains bacteria that aren’t dangerous for people but can be deadly for the fish. If the fish does jump out of the tank, put it carefully with a wet hand or a piece of paper into the net and then back into the fish tank or even better with a glass pipe (it sounds strange but “additional equipment” of an aquarist includes different things). 

Be very careful when transferring the fish because every wound on their body can get an infection. When you feed your pets or check the temperature avoid touching the water. Use a thermometer to check the temperature. There are different models, classic ones similar to the thermometer used on people, in the shape of a tape that is glued to the glass, and so on. More precise ones are those that are immersed in water.

Regular doses of vitamin and mineral products are as important as the basic food you give them. When these small creatures lack vitamins, illnesses appear very fast and often can be fatal. Vitamin deficiency – the lack of vitamins develops when the fish diet is always the same and the food quality or amount is not adequate. One of the simplest ways of avoiding that is to always get a different kind of food from the specialized shops.

Even a very small amount of alcohol, lime, insecticide, and other chemical substances, in general, can be fatal to the small inhabitants of the tank. When you paint your apartment or color your furniture be very careful. Cover the tank with glass or cotton linen and often check the number of fumes in the air.


  • Do fish sleep?

Yes. When you notice that they swim in one place with barely visible lateral fin movements – they sleep. During sleep breathing is slow and often a change of color is noticeable.

  • Do they recognize their owner?

They can see up to a 10 m distance and many aquarists claim that their pets recognize them.

  • What do the fish do in the absence of their owners?

All healthy and adult specimens can last more than 2 weeks without food. That forced starving even does them good because after that you will see them being faster and more vital. Plants from the tank will serve as an excellent “vegetarian diet” for some species.

First aquarium – equipment choice


The right choice of equipment, tank dimensions, lighting position, filters, and substrate plays a very important role. In smaller tanks, the fish feel crowded and a bigger one solves some beginner problems when gaining experience in keeping the microbiological balance of the water and the substrate. It’s also better to opt for the internal filter because it will surprise you with unforeseen problems less often. Their only flaw is that they take up space in the fish tank. If you don’t want the fish to spawn and you live in an apartment with a steam heating system, you don’t need a heater (must be with a thermostat) in the beginning, especially if you opt for the lighting with regular light bulbs.

aquarium lightning

Microbiological balance

When you’ve done all of the above you can start “forming” the aquarium. It’s essential to fill the aquarium with “good” water. Get about twenty liters of “old” aquarium water from an experienced aquarist. The rest of the fish tank you can fill with tap water which was left to sit. The majority of fish and plants gladly welcome the refreshment from the pipeline. Later when you decide to spawn certain fish, you need to take special care about the water chemistry (water hardness, acidity, and age), for others, this can be stimulative. You shouldn’t be afraid of refreshing the tank with that kind of water (well water or rainwater) because in that way you control the hardness and neutral reaction.

Settling in

Another important problem is the choice of fish and plants. A smaller problem is to avoid a combative inhabitant or a moody plant. It’s more important to choose healthy and vital fish and plants. So pay better attention to the person you get the fish from than their color and shape. See how they act in the tank and what kind of attention do they get from their owner. Sick fish or fish infected with algae often cause problems, which discouraged many beginners after only a few months. Fish diseases and certain types of algae are hard to remove once they settle the aquarium. If you did everything carefully in the beginning, further maintenance of the tank will be a pleasure.

Don’t forget:

It’s better to dedicate 10 minutes to the tank every day and see potential changes than spend hours once a week or month trying to remedy something that is already in full swing.

After a few months, a highly developed aquarist eye will easily notice if something isn’t right with fish behavior or look of the plants judging by the clarity of the water.

How to arrange the tank?

Biological conditions required by water plants and animals which we wish to keep in the tank must be taken into consideration during the arranging of the tank. Because of that, we must know which type of fish and plant we will have in the tank in order to adjust the substrate, sand or gravel, and biotope scenario the species come from. Tank arranging begins with placing the substrate and scenario to the bottom of the tank and then filling it with water.

When placing the substrate, we must be careful to keep it 5 cm high in the back and 1.5 cm high in the front. Depending on the size of the tank, we won’t place the substrate 5-10 cm behind the front glass because nothing is planted there. That space is intended for mud removal and feeding and the fish linger there the most. If you grew plants right next to the glass, then they would hide the tank view. The substrate must be 1 cm away from the edge of the tank because harmful algae would form there because of the lighting.

We put the well-washed gravel (sand) on the substrate. Gravel is rinsed in a larger container with a powerful water jet. Water needs to be replaced during rinsing for at least 20 up to 30 times (until it becomes clear, even after mixing the gravel/sand). If you take the gravel (sand) from the water in which the fish lived, you need to boil it for at least one hour. Gravel/sand needs to be dark and mustn’t contain a lot of soluble potassium.

The substrate is covered by 2-3 cm wide gravel sand. The stones which you used for the scenario need to be darker and without sharp edges. Dry roots are an ideal décor for every decorative tank. Tank arranging should go according to this order:

  1. substrate
  2. gravel (sand)
  3. scenario
  4. pouring water up to the middle
  5. placing the heater and the thermometer
  6. filling the tank to the rim
  7. planting

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