Getting a pet fish: How to set up an aquarium

Interested in adding a gilled house guest to your abode? These tips will help you pick out a starter aquarium.

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Photo: ©iStock.com/Ljupco

1. The long haul

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that fish are pets, and like all pets, require a time commitment. Depending on the average lifespan of the fish you’re buying, it may last anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

“Siamese fighting fish live on average three years, while comets [or goldfish] can live 20 to 30 years,” says Ray Franchi of Reef Supplies Canada, in Montreal. So your first step should be the length of time you’re able to commit to when you start your research.

2. Fish funds

With fish-keeping, set yourself a budget and work within it.

Some aquarium kits can be bought for less than $100, but cost varies with size and accessories. Once you’ve decided on the type of fish and your budget, it’s critical to note whether your fish thrive in salt or fresh water, since there will be a difference in the tank you get. Freshwater aquariums are less expensive and require less time to maintain.

For both tanks, there are essential accessories to include: They should be equipped with a filter, heater and light, says Jarmila Johnston of AngelFins.ca, in Guelph, Ont. She says simple filters can be purchased for less than $10, while more sophisticated canister filters can run you more than $100. Heaters range in cost from $20 to $60 and lights from under $10 to $200.

3. It’s in the tank

Your budget and the type of fish you’re looking for play a big role in the size of tank you’ll need. But you’ll also require the available surface at home to hold it. Franchi says it’s important to keep in mind that the larger the tank, the higher the price tag will be on the support equipment you’ll need (since a larger tank will require a stronger heater and filter).

Where you keep the tank in the house is also important. It shouldn’t be sitting in direct sunlight (since this will cause algae to build up, which can cause a range of issues and will require a full cleaning of the tank).

4. Clean sweep

To maintain the cleanliness of your aquarium, Johnston suggests using an algae scraper on the tank’s glass to remove toxic base. Toxins build up on surfaces and don’t always float freely in the water for the filter to catch, so you need to actually clean the surfaces to remove the toxins.

She says that depending on the type of fish, partial weekly water changes along with a good filter cleaning are sufficient. Fish that produce more waste, like African cichlids, should be kept in tanks with canister filters, as they provide better filtration.

5. Comforts of home

Keep your fishy friends happy by recreating their natural habitat and adding some decor items. “Live plants improve the aesthetic look of the aquarium and also make the fish a bit calmer,” says Johnston, “which usually result in better colouration of the fish.”

Opt for plants with large leaves since they’re the least demanding and don’t require too much light.

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Get it now:
Tetra Submersible heater, $13.97; Tetra Complete LED aquarium, $39.96; SpongeBob accessories, $7.88 each; Marina Aquarium Thermometer, $2.92.

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