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9 essential tips for taking perfect care of your new fish

Christie Long is a small animal veterinarian with 10 years experience in medicine, surgery, and acupuncture. As PetCoach's Chief Veterinarian, she directs a global team of veterinarians fielding inquiries regarding all aspects of pet car...

There's more to caring for fish than you probably realize

Congratulations! You’re the proud parent of a new fish — or fishes. Maybe it’s a decision you’ve carefully thought through or maybe you were lured over to that lovely, quiet, darkened area of the pet store where the fish are sold and you came away with a few new fin-kids. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you take impeccable care of them and their environment. Here are a few tips to make sure you do exactly that.

1. Properly cycle the tank

While you might think you’re going to be able to fill a lovely glass bowl with water out of the tap and plop your new fish right into it, it’s definitely not recommended. Fill your tank with gravel, add your filter, then add water. Allow time for beneficial bacteria to populate the gravel and the filter. Use a tank starter if time does not permit. Then set your tank to maintain the proper temperature and pH for the species of fish kept and add appropriate lighting.

2. Acclimate

Make sure your fish are conditioned to the water you’ll be using and the water temperature before adding them to the tank. This can be done by floating them in bags or gradually adding tank water to the bag. It should only take about 15 minutes to an hour to do this.

More: 6 low-maintenance fish that basically anyone can keep alive

3. Ensure plenty of elbow room

Don’t over crowd your finned family members! Make sure there is no more than (roughly) 1 inch of fish per gallon of tank size. The best bet is to purchase the biggest tank your budget and your space allows. That way, you’ll have room to grow your collection if you decide that fish keeping is your thing (which it totally will be, for sure).

4. Segregation in fish tanks is actually a good thing

Don’t mix aggressive fish, like betas, with community fish, like goldfish. If you do, you’re obviously only asking for trouble. The same goes for large fish and small fish — to ensure harmony, make sure you either only get fish of one general size or keep two separate environments.

5. Fish food 101

Certainly, you need to feed your fish, but it’s important that you don’t overfeed. Sprinkle with a light hand, and if your fish are leaving food floating, chances are good that you’re feeding too much. It’s a good idea to vary the diet so it includes food of several different types, including flakes, pellets, fresh and freeze-dried foods.

6. Monitor the water

The health of your fish depends upon having water in the tank that is healthy for them to live in. Monitor the water quality, including pH, ammonia and nitrite levels by using an at-home test kit, or submit a water sample for testing at your local fish or exotic pet shop. Make the necessary adjustments as indicated.

More: Can you handle a saltwater aquarium?

7. Clean house

Make sure to clean the tank regularly — approximately every two to three weeks. This includes a complete change out of the water and the filter media, vacuuming of the gravel and cleaning the tank glass.

8. Keep the peace

You might think fish are a peaceful species, and they typically are; however, you need to keep an eye out to ensure that there’s no bullying going on between fish, because this can happen. You also need to monitor your fish for bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections, as well as generalized lethargy, floating at the surface of the water and inability to stay upright.

9. Act quickly

If you notice any signs of illness, quarantine any unwell fish in a separate tank immediately. Consult with the store where you bought your fish or ask PetCoach for help in figuring out what’s going wrong and how to correct it.

More: Why you need an aquarium filter

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