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Your First Aquarium

An aquarium is a watery world in miniature. It can be as complicated as you want or just a simple and safe place to keep a beautiful and patient pet. If you're new to fish keeping, you should start with the basics, but even beginners can have a terrific aquarium. Both beta fish (also known as Siamese fighting fish or bettas) and goldfish are good for first-timers. They're attractive and not so demanding of a special environment in order to thrive.

Here are some things to remember about keeping your first fish:

  • Make sure the tank is large enough. Betas can survive in a half a gallon of water, but it's much better to give them a gallon and a half. Added bonus: larger tanks with fewer fish will have to be cleaned less often. Goldfish are happier in a standard rectangular aquarium. They need that extra surface area to get enough oxygen.
  • Keep the tank out of direct sunlight. Even if it's winter, sunlight will encourage the growth of nasty substances in the tank. Plus, water that is too hot is not good for little fishes. 65 to 70 degrees is nice for goldfish. Tropical fish will need to be warmer.
  • Don't put the tank near a heating or air conditioning unit. Fish like a steady temperature.
  • Use special cultured gravel in your tank. It's had bacteria added to help break down the fishy waste.
  • Add some plants, plastic or real, and some fun decorations such as a sunken treasure chest or a mermaid to the tank. Fish like having places to hide when they are being shy or want to get away from other fish.
  • Betas are beautiful, but these boys do fight. Only put one in a tank.
  • Before you buy your first fish, get the tank completely set up for them at home. Take your new fish in their bag and let it sit in your tank for a while. This will get the water temperatures equalized. When it's time to add the fish, just add the fish, not their old tank water.
  • Plan on changing about 1/5 of their water a couple of times a week. You can use bottled water at room temperature if you don't have time to let tap water sit until the chlorine escapes.
  • Fish are living creatures and need you to be there for them: to feed them, clean their water, and make sure they're healthy. If you think you'll get tired of you fish in a week or two, don't get one!
  • Remember that even with the best of care, your finned friends will live for about two or three years. If a fish dies, use a net to get it out of the tank immediately so it doesn't make the others sick.
  • Ask the pet store staff for more information on how to keep your fish happy and healthy.

Just for Fun:

Here are some great names for goldfish: Goldy, Sparkle, Jewel, Sprite, Gandalf, Frodo, Arwen, Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Dora.
Try these names for the red and blue betas: Obiwan, Luke, Darth, Aragorn, Gimli, Clifford, and Blue.

Do you have a cool name for your goldfish or beta? Email us, and we'll add it to the list!

Names from our readers: Guppy Puppy, Skinny Finny, Gilligan, and, for bettas, Blaze, Feather, Silk, Dancer, and Water Baby! One reader writes in that her pleco is named Beavis, and her iridescent shark is named J.J.

The book list, Your First Aquarium, has great reading to help you get started.