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Exotic Fish. Beginner's Guide to Aquatic Tanks


Image Source: Pixabay

By Jeff Williams 

Nothing compares to the vibrancy and splendor of an aquarium filled with exotic fish. High-profile celebrities such as Madonna, Kanye West, or Cher love collecting them, and there’s a good reason for that. Simply put, a tank where unique species swim around adds a certain flair to any home. In this article, we will give you useful tips and pieces of advice on the topic. 

Freshwater vs Saltwater: What to Choose

Exotic fish reside in both fresh and salty bodies of water, and it is your responsibility as their owner to perfectly emulate their conditions in their natural habitat. Freshwater aquariums are also known as tropical, while their saltwater counterparts are often referred to as marine. So, which one is the right one for you as a beginner? 

As a general rule, freshwater tanks are more suitable for novice aquarists. In the wild, the species that belong to this category swim around in rivers, streams, lakes, or ponds. Replicating the conditions in this type of environment is simple. All you have to do is dechlorinate regular tap water with the help of a targeted agent that you can purchase at your local pet store.

If you want to go one step further, it is also possible to purchase readily treated bottles of water and then add them directly to the tank. Afterward, you are obligated to constantly monitor the temperature inside the tank, as well as control the nitrate levels. This will ensure that your fish stay happy and healthy for as long as possible. 

Pet shops also commercialize salts that you can mix with fresh water to emulate the salinity of a species’ native sea or ocean. To achieve a comparable ratio, you have the option of using a device known as a hydrometer which closely screens the liquid’s specific gravity. However, things tend to get even more complicated after this point. 

Some marine creatures such as anemones or corals require special attention. To ensure they are thriving, you will have to mix in other compounds into the water as well, namely calcium and iodine. The appropriate proportion might be hard to achieve for a beginner, which is why starting with a tropical tank first is your best bet. 

How to Set Up the Aquarium 

After picking out a container whose size suits your standards and positioning in your home, it is time to start setting up the aquarium. You should thoroughly rinse the gravel and decorations you plan on putting inside it first and foremost. You will need around 250 grams of sand per liter of water in the tank, as it is a favorable breeding ground for good bacteria.

Nevertheless, different species of fish have varying requirements from this point of view, so always keep those in mind. After this initial step, it’s time to place the desired layer of gravel on the bottom of the tank and fill it up with previously dechlorinated water so that it won’t get displaced. If it is easier for you, treat the water after you pour it in.

Next, put in the aquatic ornaments one by one. Install the filter and heater in the tank following each device’s specific instructions. Every manufacturer builds their version differently, so keep that in mind. Wait for at least 30 minutes before plugging the heater in though, or else it will shatter due to thermal inversion.

The final step is to test the water. Begin by placing a thermometer inside and checking if it is suitable for your tropical fish. Freshwater species generally thrive in aquatic ecosystems that range between 24°C and 28°C, or the general area of 75°F for hobbyists using the Fahrenheit measurement system. 

With the help of a quick examination kit, analyze the water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It should not contain any. Establish its pH, carbonate hardness (KH), and general hardness (GH) as well. Neutral levels are preferred by most fish, so make sure to restore the balance. After performing these tests, it’s time to pick out your first exotic additions to the aquarium. 


Image Source: Pixabay

The Best Exotic Fish for Beginners

Tropical fish come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. It is recommended that you start your collection with small and friendly species first, so that discord doesn’t arise within their ranks. Here are our top five beginner-friendly picks that you should consider purchasing for your first freshwater aquarium. 

Neon tetras. A favorite amongst freshwater aquarists, neon tetras are tiny and vibrant little guys that thrive in schools of six or more. They are recommended for tanks with a volume of 10 gallons or more. Avoid placing them in an aquarium that contains larger species as well, as they will become moving targets. Other than that, neon tetras are adorable and low maintenance, the perfect species for an enthusiastic novice in the field.

Zebra danios. Zebra danios are equally popular to neon tetras when it comes to their prevalence in tropical tanks. They have fun personalities and love to swim around, which makes for a unique display of aquatic energy. In addition to this, they procreate effortlessly when provided with the right conditions, which is interesting to watch. 

Guppies. Together with the aforementioned two species, guppies are part of the holy trinity of the beginner-friendly freshwater aquarium. They have gorgeous and flashy tails and come in a wide range of colorations. In fact, a guppy can be anything from bright red to marble-patterned, albino, or iridescent even.  Due to this, they will certainly add some pizzazz to your aquatic collection. 

Corydoras. Due to their whiskers, corydoras are often mistaken for a species of catfish. However, they do not belong to this family of aquatic creatures, but they are an interesting find nevertheless. They use their whiskers to sift through gravel, as they are bottom feeders par excellence. 

Cherry barbs. Native to Sri Lanka, cherry barbs are some of the most vivacious freshwater species on the roster. Their fiery red pigmentation further adds to this image. However, they come with a small warning sign. They tend to be aggressive towards slow fish with large fins, which they will nip in an instant. Thus, it is advisable keep them away from tanks that contain swimmers who fit the bill. 

Final Thoughts 

Even though the idea of collecting ocean fish might be tempting, it is best to start out with a freshwater tank first. Set it up properly and create the suitable conditions for your little aquatic buddies to thrive. And when choosing what species go in first, always stick to petite and peaceful ones so that the proper balance is maintained. 


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