Starting an aquarium

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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fish in an aquarium
Aquariums are fun no matter which side of the glass you're on
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Do some research when starting an aquarium so you won't be a fish out of water

When looking for an easy pet to take care of, most families follow the advice of the popular card game and "Go fish!" Starting an aquarium looks easy - get a square container, fill it with water and add guppies - but if you want your pets to live and thrive for more than a few days, it pays to do some planning.

While it may seem like a good idea to start small, that isn't the case with aquariums. Larger tanks are actually easier to keep clean and do a better job of keeping the water quality stable. Pick a location in your house with enough space for a good-sized aquarium - around 50 gallons is the most popular size. Make sure you get a stand that is sturdy and properly fits your tank.

The next things to consider are the stuff inside the tank thatís not fish Ė the heater, filter, air pump, cover and water. Some aquariums come complete with all of this equipment, but itís still important to learn their purposes to keep your aquarium functioning and your fish healthy. Tropical fish need a constant water temperature that doesn't fluctuate. Select an aquarium heater designed for your tank size so that the water stays between 76 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tropical fish do plenty of things in the water besides swim, so a good filter is essential for keeping the water clean, both for looks and for the health of the fish. Always go with a filter rated for your size aquarium or larger - besides removing dirt, uneaten food and pollution, the air filter puts oxygen back into the water. However, the primary supplier of oxygen to the aquarium is the air pump. Those bubbles you see in fish tanks donít just make the pirateís chest open and close Ė they add oxygen and keep the surface agitated to insure that the water keeps flowing throughout the tank.

While technically not inside the tank, the cover and light are necessary components of the aquarium. Besides keeping your fish from accidentally jumping out and your other pets from accidentally - or on purpose - dipping in, the cover helps reduce water evaporation and keep the tank clean. The light helps you see your fish swimming around, which is why you started an aquarium in the first place.

The final step is filling the tank. Tap water contains chemicals that are deadly to fish, so check with your local pet store for the proper dechlorination additives, disinfectants and electrolytes to give your local water the proper pH balance for the fish you choose.

At this point, your aquarium start-up is complete and it's time for the fish. Add them a few at a time to give the aquarium water a chance to adjust to the fish and vice versa. A good way to avoid stressing your new fish is to let the plastic bag you brought them home in float in the tank unopened for a few minutes. Once the fish adjust to the water temperature, open the bag and let them swim out. If you've followed these guidelines for starting an aquarium, they'll soon be happily settled in and ready for new friends.

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