How do I start a freshwater aquarium?

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Answered by: Sean, An Expert in the Starting an Aquarium Category
So you want to start a freshwater aquarium but you don't know where to start… First, let me say, welcome to your new addiction! Freshwater aquariums are one of a few unique pet options in which you get to create a sustainable ecosystem for your new pet(s) to thrive in.

The key to a healthy and prosperous freshwater aquarium used to be a simple math problem. The old way of thinking was that for every one inch of fish, you need one gallon of water. Due to a heavy increase in filtration system technologies, the home aquarium enthusiast can cheat the equation a bit. Today you can purchase a inexpensive freshwater aquarium filtration system that filters 30+ gallons of water per hour for around $16. If you have a 10 gallon tank (a good starter size), this filter will filter your tanks capacity 3 times in an hour. By filtering your water efficiently, you can increase your aquarium capacity.

You wouldn't want to overcrowd your tank, especially when you start a freshwater aquarium, but you can certainly add a few more inches of fish without concern. The key to maintaining your aquarium is in filtration, maintenance and feeding. I recommend first deciding what type of fish you want by visiting your local fish/pet store and taking a look at what they have to offer. Decide on what fish you would like and then purchase the aquarium and filter that will suit your ideal fishes' needs.

The biggest mistake most people make when starting a new aquarium is that they don't give the tank and water time to create a well balanced ecosystem that can sustain a colony of freshwater fish. What I recommend doing is purchasing your tank, filter, gravel and decorations two days before purchasing any fish. Make sure and use a water conditioner such as Tetra Aquasafe to take out any harmful contaminates or chemicals commonly found in tap water. Set it all up and run the filter for a couple days then add fish to your tank conservatively.

Don't just go out and buy every fish you want and put them in your new freshwater aquarium. Start with one or two that you want and add more as time passes. I wouldn't recommend adding more than 2 fish per week until your tank has all the fish you want in it. A common misconception that bottled water is better than tap water for your new tank is false. Your fish need bacteria in order to thrive, bottle water has all the bacteria removed from it.

Another common mistake people make is thinking that algae is a sign that there is something wrong with your tank or that the water is dirty. The truth is, if you see algae growing (especially green algae) you are doing a great job. Algae is the surest sign of a healthy freshwater ecosystem. If the algae is out of control you can counter it with the addition of an algae eating fish. If you follow these steps to start a freshwater aquarium, it will be a successful endeavor.

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