Would you like to have fish? You could say that fish are a different kind of pet than others, but don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they are boring! It’s true that you can’t teach them games and tricks like a dog, but an aquarium or a fish tank is a great hobby and also serves as a decorative element for your home. Do you want to learn about having happy and healthier fish? Don’t miss this post!
1 - Everything starts with a good diet
As the saying goes, “what you eat is what you raise”. Many times in the shop I see people who are surprised by the colorfulness of some of our fish and who comment that theirs have dull colors and do not look the same in their aquarium. My next question is always: what do you feed them? And most of the time the answer is the same: the scales that are sold in the boats.
Can you imagine a lifetime eating the same thing? Yes, yes, repeat after me, THE SAME THING. I get the seven evils just by thinking about it. Because in the end, even though most of the good commercial brands usually have a mix of scales in the community aquarium food cans, in many of them the only thing that changes is the coloring and that’s it.
Yes, just as you hear. Why give him just one type of food when we have an incredibly wide variety to give our fish? Special foods for herbivores, omnivores, carnivores, freeze-dried food of many kinds, frozen…
Today the variety is almost infinite, and each brand also presents a lot of different types of food. You can go crazy (literally) trying to compare one with the other. In our store we have tried a lot of brands and, both for our experience as aquarists in the past, and for our current experience we have a ranking of “favorite foods” that we have seen that work great in the daily diet of our fish, and of course we will tell you step by step.
In fresh water, the presentation of flakes or granules for the Ocean Nutrition community is our daily workhorse and is the one we have been using for many years. And we also use it a lot of times a day (sometimes there are days that we feed more than 6 and 7 times). Few quantities, but many times, because in this way we imitate what fish do in nature, which is constantly pecking for food.
And now comes the fundamental tessitura… when do we choose scale and when do we choose grain? For this question we are also clear: if your fish eat the grain, go ahead with it. The flake is less nutritious when it contacts the water because it loses vitamins in a short time as it decomposes in the water. The grain, on the other hand, takes longer to break down and has much more content.
And the flake, what do I want it for?
And now the good part begins: we have 2 more types of food to drive our fish crazy. What do I recommend? That you choose two from the following list and alternate them with the base diet:
- Flake food of different taste and composition.
- Frozen food.
- Frozen porridge (simply great, but it pollutes the water a lot, eye and parrot with water changes).
- Food that decomposes very slowly and that fish can peck at (like bottom tablets, but there are also versions for all the fish in the aquarium).
You should at least offer your fish one meal every two days of this other type of meal. The best thing: give them every other day. You will be surprised to see how much more your fish want to eat certain types of food (there, each species is a world, and each animal has its own tastes) and on top of that you will have healthier fish and you will be surprised how they feed and how they have preferences!
And no, you don’t have to buy all the boats at once. Start with a good basic diet and an “extra” diet from that list. And before you run out of either of these two foods you already have, get a third diet to alternate with the two you already had. Ideally, you should always have at least 3 different things on hand to feed your aquarium occupants.
2 - Have the nitrates at 0
If you have nitrates in excess of 20 parts per million, I am very sorry, but you will always have problems making your fish look healthy, strong and colourful. Why? Because nitrates are nothing more than water pollution due to the degradation of organic compounds that follow the nitrogen cycle, and the more you accumulate in your aquarium the less your fish will grow and the weaker they will be. The fewer nitrates, the healthier fish.
What is the goal? To keep them at or near zero. While it is not recommended to have them at 0 if you have a marine fish with corals or a candy with plants (since both algae that symbiose with the corals and plants consume the nitrates as food to grow), if you have only fish or they are your priority, your goal is always the same, to have no nitrates at all.
Obviously with this point I assume that you have neither ammonia nor nitrites in the aquarium, and that you also have good biological filtration.
3 - Phenolic compounds?
When you change the water in your aquarium and add a white bucket, does the water have a yellowish colour? If the answer is yes, you almost certainly have tannins in your aquarium, but I bet you have a lot of phenolic compounds too.
These compounds come from processes of degradation of organic matter, staining the water with an amber or yellowish color just like the tannins. And… surprise! The more there are, the worse your fish will be! Simply because they inhibit the growth and proper development of fish when there is a high concentration of phenolic compounds in the water. The solution is simple: increase the frequency of water changes. The ultimate goal: to have healthier fish every day
4 - Avoid overpopulation
Most of our aquariums are overcrowded and have too much biological load inside, that is, we have too many living animals that generate too much organic matter that later has to be decomposed, worsening the water quality.
In addition, overpopulation automatically creates more interactions between the animals and this is not always good. Here are a few reasons why you should not overpopulate your aquarium:
- Increased interactions / fights between individuals (most of the time not good, although it is true that in certain African cichlid aquariums overpopulation is sought precisely so that no animal can become too dominant).
- Competition for food increases. Conclusion: delicate or shy fish have problems to get food.
- The quality of the water decreases if we do not have a continuous water exchange system.
- The stress generated by overpopulation makes fish more sensitive to disease. Where are you most comfortable, in your living room or in a crowded place where you will meet someone wherever you move? And yes, there are fish that need to be in schools, but it’s one thing to have a school and quite another to have 40 fish in a 60-litre aquarium.
5 - Follow a routine or automate
Haven’t you noticed that when you have the lights on and off automated with a clock (and please don’t tell me you don’t have it automated, because it’s really chaotic for the poor animals!) the fish know perfectly when the lights are going to go off and they look for shelter a few minutes earlier? Following a routine with feeding, water changes and cleaning the filters is always the best option of all.
And all the work you can take off by automating tasks, don’t think about it, do it as soon as you can. Water changes, automatic evaporation water refilling, automating “diet base” feedings with a good automatic feeder. If you get your fish used to a fixed schedule, they will thank you for the routine and you will see how everything works much better in your aquarium.
Don't you have automated lighting?
If you don’t have automated lighting yet, you’re already late. Nowadays a normal programmer is around 3-5 euros and a digital programmer is usually no more than 15 euros. There is no excuse anymore. My recommendation: the digital programmer. Why? Very easy. If you ever have a power cut, the normal timer will be out of adjustment with the time you set (if there is no light, the clock does not keep running, and if the power goes out for an hour and a half, that delay will be accumulated by the normal timer).
With the digital timer this does not happen. You set exactly what time the lights go on and off, and if the lights go out, most will last 72 hours without light before they go out. Save yourself the trouble and invest in a good programmer. They last for years and your fish will thank you for it.
Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t read our article on aquarium equipment, I recommend it right away.
And now, to make you see how important it is to have automated light, we are going to do a little exercise of reflection: Imagine that you are in a house with little light and that every day you turn on and off the light at a different time. The first few days you endure it as much as you can, but for your internal clock (the one that works according to the number of hours of light we have per day) it is a real disaster, and it has been proven that after a few weeks the stress produced by this situation is great and can lead to tremendous drops in defense.
And the same thing will happen to your fish, so it’s better to have this important part automated. Your fish will thank you and you will get rid of a small job that you can invest in enjoying watching your fish, and you will never have to be out of the house again and remember that you didn’t turn on the light!
6 - Do not combine incompatible species
A gruyada as big as a temple is this advice, I know. But you can’t even imagine how many times in the shop we can see cases of very shy fish mixed with others of aggressive or very fast character.
I would dare to say that almost every day we have to play the bad cop and say: don’t take those fish, they will mess with what you have. And we do it so happily because that’s what we are here for, to advise you and make your aquarium go better. Putting in neon signs is usually not a good idea (unless you want to run out of neon signs), just like trying to raise guppies in an aquarium full of tetras. Or combine Oryzias woworae (a beautiful and quite quiet fish, by the way) with cherry barbels, which are like a formula one at lunchtime.
It is also true that although some species are compatible, there can always be an individual who gets a screw in the head and gets it by rolling it brown in the aquarium, but these are usually exceptions (and against those specimens, little can be done, more than what you will read later in point No. 7).
Don’t hesitate to ask us, we are here to help you select the best species for your aquarium and to ensure that you have healthier fish.
7 - Watch your fish
It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? But we often miss sitting down and quietly reviewing the behavior of our fish. The most important advice I can give you when you do this is not to stick to the aquarium. Watch your fish from a distance of one or two meters. You will see how the behavior of the animals is totally different. And yet fish are not stupid, and as soon as they see us moving in front of the aquarium, even if we are at a distance, they change their behavior.
It would not be the first time that we have put a camera to record the aquarium and we have discovered some tenant with undesirable behavior (who chases the aquarium’s companions, who is aggressive or simply that as soon as he does not feel observed he shows abnormal behavior in terms of buoyancy or positioning in the aquarium).
Once you have observed your fish from afar, it is time to approach the aquarium and look carefully at whether it has any problems with its fins or the rest of its body, so that you can remedy them (separate aggressive companions, move it to another aquarium or separate it for a while so that it regains weight).
If you watch your fish, maybe it’s time to learn how to photograph your fish, learn in this article
I hope that with all these tricks and tips you will have happier, healthier, shinier and more colourful fish. And remember that we are here to help you keep them that good, and we’ll be happy to advise you on your aquatic pets.