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    New Fish Guide

    What does it take to keep fish and care for a freshwater aquarium environment?

    Use these tips and shopping guide to become a pro in no time. 
    Start Shopping »
    Fish Tank Selection

    Getting Started

    Selecting your aquarium and tank setup

    Learn More

    Fish Long Term Care

    Long-Term Care

    Maintenance for healthy fish and a vibrant aquarium

    Learn More

    Download our Fish Guide

    Download Our Guide

    Care guide with new pet parent checklist


    Getting Started

    Select Your Aquarium

    When selecting a tank, keep in mind activity level, territoriality, available habitat, and filtration.  Most household furniture will likely only support aquariums of five gallons or less. Aquariums that are larger than that should be placed on a stand or base manufactured specifically for aquarium use and designed to safely withstand the weight of a filled aquarium.
    Paw PrintTIP: Don’t buy fish the same day as the aquarium. Instead, set the tank up and let it run for a few days before introducing new fish into your aquarium.

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    Fish release waste into the same environment they eat, breathe, and live in, making an efficient filtration system critical to their long-term health and well-being. Choosing the best filter for your aquarium will depend on aquarium size, the types of fish you keep, your feeding habits, maintenance practices, and to some extent, your personal preferences. The three stages of filtration are mechanical, chemical, and biological.  To set your aquarium up for success, find an appropriately sized filter that is capable of all three.
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    Substrate & Decor

    Aquarium decor creates a beautiful environment and makes your fish feel right at home thanks to the natural stress-relieving hiding spots they provide. When choosing decorations for your aquarium, always take into consideration the needs of your fish. Schooling fish enjoy swimming among plants, whereas fish that “den” like to find refuge in hollow logs, caves, castles, and sunken ships.

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    Let there be light!

    Your fish rely on a regular day/night cycle for optimum health, making lighting vital. Brightness is less important, and too much light can cause algae growth. Live plants, on the other hand, need strong light (which is different than brightness level) and a broader spectrum for photosynthesis. Certain fluorescent lamps and LED bars can enhance the colors in fish and the overall appearance of your aquarium. Light fixtures can be used in conjunction with an automatic timer, which fish will appreciate.
    Paw PrintTIP: Only keep the aquarium light on for 8-10 hours a day. Turning lights off for new aquarium fish at night is just as important as keeping them on during the day.
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    Home Sweet Home

    Ready to start transferring fish to a new aquarium? Keep in mind, properly acclimating new fish into your aquarium has a significant impact on their long-term health and well-being. Netting, bagging, and transporting fish is highly stressful. Because water quality and chemistry can vary between your local fish store and your aquarium, be sure to take precautions to help make the transition as stress free as possible for your fish.
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    Long-Term Care

    Cycling Nitrogen

    Establishing nitrifying bacteria, or “cycling” a new freshwater aquarium begins after you add the first fish and can take several weeks to even months in larger aquariums. Simply allowing your aquarium to run for 24 to 48 hours after first setting it up is not cycling. Adding too many fish at once or overfeeding a new freshwater aquarium will cause ammonia and nitrite to rise to unsafe levels – a condition known as “New Tank Syndrome” – and may result in fish loss. Regular partial water changes, proper filtration, sensible stocking, and feeding habits as well as the use of live plants will help keep nitrates in check.
    Paw PrintTIP: Add one inch of fish per five to ten gallons every two weeks until your tank is fully populated. 

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    Turn Up the Heat!

    With the exception of certain cold water species, aquarium fish need warm water.

    • Betta do best in water that is between 76° and 85° F
    • Tropical fish prefer a range of 75° and 80° F
    • Goldfish from 68° to 74° F

    Water temperature also needs to remain consistent to keep your fish’s immunity up, which will discourage disease such as ich, which has a high mortality rate if it's not caught and treated early. 

    Paw PrintTIP: How old is Your Aquarium Thermometer? Spot Check it Often!
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    Tank Maintenance & Water Changes

    Aquariums are enclosed ecosystems that naturally attempt to stay in balance.  Unfortunately, fish waste and any uneaten food can build up in the aquarium.  As they start to break down they also start to release ammonia—which is toxic to fish.  Simple water changes help by removing a portion of the aquarium’s water and replacing it with fresh water.  It is never a good idea to completely drain an active aquarium because it greatly reduces the amount of beneficial microscopic bacteria that help keep your aquarium balanced. 
    Paw PrintTIP: Change approximately 25% of your aquarium water once per month. Also, try to adjust the temperature of the new water to match the temperature in the aquarium. 

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    Water Quality & Care

    You don’t have to be a biologist or chemist to be a successful aquarist, but understanding the basics of water chemistry and water quality will help you maintain a healthy, trouble-free aquarium.  Avoid problems and ensure your fish stay healthy and vibrant by testing your freshwater aquarium water quality when you first set it up.  
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    Create a Feeding Frenzy

    Are they herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores? Surface, mid-water, or bottom-feeders? Most aquarists keep a variety of species in their aquariums, so offering a combination of different foods is best. It’s always best to underfeed, especially in new aquariums, as uneaten food can cloud your water and cause dangerous rises in ammonia and nitrite levels.
    Paw PrintTIP: Only feed as much as your fish will eat in less than two minutes.

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