1. Aquarium Basics

What are just the bare basics of keeping a fish aquarium? This chapter is a series of basic articles on what science has found out is the best way to set up a beginner’s aquarium. This science points out that the aquarium is a natural system. And Mother Nature is both very flexible and very forgiving. As a result, there a great many ways to be very successful with aquariums.

Keeping Aquariums is Easy!!

One common problem with this hobby is that hobbyists overthink it.  Don’t go down that rabbit hole. Keep it simple and you will do just fine.

On this website, we give out advice on several “levels”. The “levels” go from simple advice to complex in-depth explanations. I suggest one only do the “deep dives” if you are a real geek like me.

Pethia conchonius Rosy Barb
Pethia conchonius Rosy Barb

Level 1, Keeping it VERY Simple

This chapter of this website is designed in levels of difficulty in a hierarchical numbered fashion. The first level, the VERY SIMPLEST level, is the fifteen point list below.  Here is what to do if you are just beginning with aquariums:

  1. Ignore the profit-driven directions that came with the aquarium
  2. Fill the tank with tap water (if you can drink it fish can live in it!). 
  3. Add conditioner if you have chlorine in the water (the ONLY chemical one needs).
  4. Take the tank up above 70 degrees with a heater (not needed with goldfish).
  5. Add one of the following cheap, low-tech, filters: in-tank cartridge filter, hang-on-back cartridge filter, sponge filter, or an under-gravel filter (under gravel filters are by far the best option).
  6. Add a decent-sized air pump (generally the price point just above the cheapest price point pump in the store) and an airstone
  7. Add a few small fish under three inches in length.
  8. Feed nothing for three days. Then feed lightly once a day an amount equal to one fish eyeball (six fish = six fish eyeballs).
  9. Do NOT add any plants
  10. Do NOT clean the ornaments when they get algae or vacuum the gravel.
  11. Do NOT clean the filter and do not replace filter cartridges
  12. Do NOT buy a water test kit
  13. ONLY do 50% water changes every two months or so.
  14. If your water turns green or gets cloudy just ignore it.
  15. Gradually add more fish over several months

That’s it!  15 points! Easy!

Balloon Molly
Balloon Molly

Level 2, Keeping it Somewhat Simple

The second level of complexity just adds some science to the setup of an aquarium. There are three topics of interest: chlorine, feeding, and “cycling”. This second level of complexity is covered in this article:

1.1. Guidelines for a Beginner

Note that because each article has to stand on it own in this website hierarchy, we often repeat ourselves as we go from simple to complex explanations.

Level 3, Just a Little More Depth

Then there are a series of articles which address what one might be interested in as a beginner in the aquarium hobby:

1.1.1. What to do with Your First Aquarium

1.1.2. A Simple Way to Cycle an Aquarium

1.1.3. Fish Food Simplified

1.1.4. Water Parameters

1.1.5. Filters for the Newbie

1.1.6. Filter Media

1.1.7. Aeration

1.1.8. Stocking a Tank

1.1.9. Brown Algae in a New Tank

1.1.10. Plants and the New Hobbyist

1.1.11. The Most Common Fish Disease – Ich

1.1.12. How to Make Fish Thrive

1.1.13. Fish for the Beginner

1.1.14. Aquarium Maintenance

Betta
Betta

Level 4, General Interest Articles

Then there are sections 1.2. through 1.8. in this chapter. These are some lengthy and somewhat verbose articles which form a fourth level in our hierarchy. The articles 1.2 through 1.4 delve into some topics about where to obtain information about aquariums and how reliable this information is.

There are a huge number of myths parroted around social media about keeping fish. These are the top 150:

1.2. 150 Myths

Then there is a huge amount of  often egregious deceptions and downright fallacies promulgated by manufacturers in search of a profit:

1.3. Marketing Hype

And there are many sources of data one can use to set up and start an aquarium. Unfortunately, virtually all of them are very unreliable, to put it mildly.

1.4. Sources of Data

Trochilocharax ornatus Crystal Rainbow Tetra
Trochilocharax ornatus Crystal Rainbow Tetra

Articles 1.5. through 1.8. continue with some more in-depth general information on aquariums.

There are a huge number of variations on the scheme of keeping fish in an aquarium. This skims the surface of these options:

1.5. Aquarium Options

It is unfortunately relatively common to lose a lot of fish overnight or within days of each other. This goes into the reasons for those deaths in some depth:

1.6. Causes of Rapid Fish Deaths

A very frustrating set of circumstances is when a fish keeper loses fish slowly, over weeks or months. This goes into that in some depth:

1.7. Causes of Slow Fish Deaths

Corydoras Sterbai
Corydoras Sterbai

Levels Five through Eight

Then there are eighteen chapters (the fifth layer of complexity) which are listed either to the right side (computer view) or down below (mobile view). These chapters go into the science of aquariums in greater and greater depth with some 400 articles, the sixth “layer” of complexity. Some of these articles have levels seven and even levels eight. Levels seven and eight are typically long boring articles only suitable for real aquarium nerds, like the author.

Note that because each article has to stand on it own in this hierarchy, we often repeat ourselves as we go from simple to complex explanations.

Fish Photos in this Chapter

The fish photos scattered randomly throughout this first “Beginner” chapter of the website are all easy beginner fish. This was very deliberate to allow a beginner to get a taste of the fish available without making them pine over something like discus or neons, which are both NOT beginner fish.

Xiphophorus maculatus Red Wag Platy
Xiphophorus maculatus Red Wag Platy

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Translated in dutch by : John de Lange
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