Wednesday, December 13, 2017

50 Ways to Kill Your Fish: Improper Habitat

How to explain this one? I think all new fish keepers generally know that fish need food and clean water to survive. But beyond that, it's kind of a mystery why things die. Maybe there aren't any obvious signs like white spots or wounds. Your fish just slowly gets lethargic over time, stops swimming around, doesn't feel like eating, and then poof, it's gone. This silent killer is known as improper living conditions. In order to fight against its deadly trap, let's talk about a couple of key tenets for setting up a comfortable habitat for your fish.

Replicate the Natural Living Conditions of Aquarium Fish

Try to Replicate Your Fish's Natural Living Conditions

We've all seen those extensive care sheets for each type of fish where they list recommended tank size, temperature, food, etc. While many fish have been raised in captivity for so long that there's some leeway with the requirements, try to match the natural living conditions and environment of the species you keep. We want to emulate their life in nature as best as we can.

That's not to say that you have to make a full-on South American biotope that only contains creatures from that region. The cool thing about aquariums is the very fact you have flexibility to mix-and-match fish from all around the world. However, one of the best pieces of advice I've heard from veteran fish keepers is to plan your tank around your favorite fish.

For my community tank 3.0, I felt so overwhelmed when planning which fish to keep. Should I narrow it down by swimming level to get a good mix of bottom feeders, mid-tank swimmers, and top-dwellers? Or maybe I should first choose a temperature range of super warm, regular tropical, or cold water? In the end, I nailed down my favorite, must-have fish (albino corydoras!) and planned the whole tank around their ideal needs. That meant buying a healthy school of them and skipping out on more aggressive fish that might out complete them for food. And in the end, I'm really happy with my choices – because I put my favorite fish first!

Don't Push the Boundaries as a Beginner

I'm totally guilty of this, especially when it comes to matching the living conditions for multiple species. I really, really want something to work (even if the research says "probably not"), but I don't have the experience to make it succeed. For example, my first betta was in a 3.5-gallon tank, and I was so proud of all the amenities he had (e.g., filter, heater, good food). But when I found out bettas can be kept in community tanks, I become obsessed with getting more fish but... I didn't want to buy another tank. So I kept searching the internet until I found one site that said they had kept their betta with cory catfish and neon tetras in a 3-gallon tank. Yeah, that didn't work out for long.

Another instance was when I read that albino cory catfish like waters at 72-79°F and German blue rams prefer 78-85°F. I thought that maybe if I kept the temperature at 78.5°F, everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, the super sensitive German blue ram didn't agree with me and slowly faded from the stress of being too cold. After watching a video about a breeder of rams, I now realize a solid 84°F would have been more appropriate.

Peaceful community fish aquarium with German blue ram, neon tetras, and albino corydoras
"Dude, I'm freezing to death in here! Crank up the heat!"

Bottom line: do what it takes to make your animals happy. If care sheets for axolotls say they can live in temperatures from 50-74°F, don't settle for room temperature – spend the money to get a fan or chiller and shoot for the mid 60's. And if you can't make certain conditions happen with your setup, then don't keep those species. (For example, fish that need soft water aren't going to thrive in my extremely hard water, especially without an RO/DI unit.) There are plenty of aquarium fish to pick from that will perfectly match your environment, so as a beginner, keep it simple and go for easy, hardy pets that you know you can make happy. Best of luck and keep on swimming!

Follow the rest of this series: 50 Ways to Kill Your Fish.

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