6 Tips for Picking Your First Aquarium Fish

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The right aquarium fish can make all the difference. Here’s 6 great tips to help you choose the best beginner fish as you embark on your aquarium keeping adventure!

Choosing your first aquarium fish may seem like a daunting task for a beginner. However, with a little research, you will be able to know what fish will prove to be hardy, undemanding, and well-suited to beginners. Perhaps the pet store may have recommended guppies, neons, or catfish, but many beginners have found it difficult to raise them, considering that they are still learning the ropes of aquarium fish care.

These six important tips will help you pick your first aquarium fish. Taking care of these fish species will certainly be a rewarding undertaking that will fuel your love for the hobby.

1. Choose fish which can easily adapt to new surroundings

A good first species should be one that is hardy, active, confident, and disease resistant. Select fish that appear healthy. Avoid fish that manifest visible signs of disease such as white spots, discolored skin patches, frayed fins, etc. Make sure that the fish can withstand water fluctuation since a new tank often has fluctuations in water quality that can stress your fish.

Aside from water conditions, your new fish should be able to adapt well to the presence of aquarium decorations and to the company of other fish species in the tank. Large or active fish can thrive well alone in a tank with little aquarium decor. However, there are fish species that find being alone distressing. Even with excellent water quality, you may find your pet hiding, not feeding, and may become vulnerable to illness.

2. Avoid fish with known specific feeding habits

Pick a fish species that can be fed a simple flake food for the first 6-8 weeks. Fish with specific feeding habits may result in excess amounts of waste products leading to high ammonia and nitrites in the water. The accumulation of these compounds is hazardous to your fish population.

3. Select fish from the same community

Selecting fish species from the same community will help ensure that you achieve balance in your aquarium. If you choose to get several varieties, make sure that they will get along well. Be sure to select the hardiest species. Fish that belong to the same community will have similar water chemistry and temperature requirements while exhibiting like behavior.

4. Start with peaceful community fish species

Aggressive tropical fish species may need to be fed live feeder-fish and this can certainly add up on your list of responsibilities. It is important to know which aggressive fish species can be matched, or else your peaceful community fish species may end up being eaten by its more aggressive tank mates. Aggressive fish species also need more tank space. Some of the tropical fish species that can thrive well in a community tank include tetras, gouramis, and platys.

5. Don’t buy too many at once

It is important that you stock your aquarium slowly. Being a neophyte, you run the risk of losing large numbers of fish to disease or bad water quality. Putting in many fish at the onset may overload the new tank water and lead to a build up of ammonia. The size and type of your tank and aquarium filter will help determine the amount and frequency of introducing new fish species to your tank. As a rule of thumb, no more than six small fish species should be added every seven days.

6. Buy from reputable breeders and pet shops

Before buying fish from a breeder or pet shop, it is recommended to visit the establishment and observe how they take care of the fish. You can see for yourself if the fish has a healthy appetite or is suffering from any health problems or defects. Never buy fish from aquarium shops that are not particular about maintaining hygiene and sanitation in their tanks. Pet shops that allow dead fish floating inside the tank or fail to quarantine sick fish should never be patronized.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Striped Rafael Catfish, nicest “thorny” catfish pokes in on Animal-World

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

The Striped Rafael Catfish will be quite prickly if touched, but it is a darn nice fellow with a very pleasant attitude!

Despite its thorny protection, the Striped Rafael Catfish is a peaceful, friendly companion towards its tank mates. That is at least towards the one that are big enough that they don’t look like food! This fellow is moderately sized and very pretty too. It’s about 6″ in length with bold black and white striping running horizontally along its body.

Curiously, in the wild the youngsters can act as cleaner fish. They will clean ferocious piscivores (fish that eat other fish!) like the Wolf Fish Hoplias cf. malabaricus. These deadly predators allow them to remove parasites and dead scales from their skin. Cleaner fish are usually striped, so it may be that their patterning triggers recognition, allowing the juveniles to get to away with snacking on the predator, rather than it snacking on them!

If you’re a beginner looking for your first catfish, this pleasant fellow could be just the ticket. It’s hardy and will eat just about anything that lands on the bottom of your tank. It may rest most of the day due to its nocturnal nature, but then at night it will emerge to become a great natural vacuum as it snacks on tasty morsels on the substrate. Yet despite its nocturnal tendencies, this fish also has a very curious nature. Once its comfortable in its home, it may very well come out of hiding during the day just to scout around!

Provide it with a comfortable home and it can live 20 years or more. A decor of driftwood and rocks that offer caves where it can rest, and a bit of plant cover to help subdue the light, and you will have a happy catfish for a very long time.

Learn more about the nicest “thorny” catfish. Pictures and information for the Striped Rafael Catfish Platydoras armatulus, also known as the Humbug Catfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Aquarium Fish Get Mean, Meet the Bad Guys

Red-bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereriRed-bellied Piranha. Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Jonas Hansel

Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. Sometime even fish that are considered great community members can get mean!

There are several aquarium fish species which are known to exhibit aggressive behavior. One of the important causes of aggressive behavior inside the tank is attributed to their being territorial, thus you may find some fish species that chase away or nip at others as a means of protecting their space inside the tank.

Yet fish aggressiveness is also attributed to competition for food and difference in size. Sometimes fish will fight when a dominant one feels that its status is being threatened by another fish. Aggression can also be a warning sign; sick fish can become aggressive while other fish tend to bully sick fish. In some instances, a recognized peaceful fish can become aggressive, thus it is common to have one mean fish in the bunch.

The most common manifestations of aggression inside the tank include tail beating, fin-nipping, pushing water at the enemy, mouth-locked wresting, chasing, biting, and even killing.

When choosing to keep a community aquarium, you should know which species can live harmoniously together. Most species of aggressive fish are more suitable for a single species aquarium.

Some of the aggressive fish groups include the following:

Tiger Barb – The Tiger Barb is considered a good community fish however it is prone to nipping fins, thus they should not be kept with long-finned fish species such as angelfish. Tiger barbs can become aggressive if there is overcrowding inside the tank.

Large Tetras – Tetras are considered community dwellers however there may be an aggressive one in the group. When adding new fish, be sure to observe the temperament and whether the new addition is compatible with the rest of the inhabitants of the tank.

Cichlids – Many varieties of cichlids are aggressive and are best kept in one-species tank. Many cichlids can grow to very large sizes. These include the Green Terror, Jewel Cichlid, and Red or Tiger Oscar. African Cichlids are known to be highly predatory and extremely territorial. While not all Cichlids are very aggressive, the largest is usually the dominant one, behaving aggressively towards all the other tank inhabitants.

Giant Danio – The Giant Danio’s long and narrow body can crowd out other fish in the tank. It is also very active and likes to school.

Red Belly Piranha – Piranhas are notoriously predatory. They are known to eat live food. In fact, they will bite fingers when aggravated or hungry.

Large Gouramis – Kissing Gouramis are recognized for being mean and energetic. Gouramis are also considered fin nippers.

Large Rainbow Fish – Although Rainbow fish can live well with other species in a community tank, they can grow large and their fast speed makes it easier for them to prey on smaller inhabitants of the tank.

Wolf Fish – The freshwater wolf fish is a well-known aggressive predator. Also called “Piranha eater”, they have voracious appetites for feeder fish. Any fish that looks like prey can be disemboweled by the wolf fish. Although they don’t really mess with other fish, they are territorial and will nip other inhabitants of the tank.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Spotted Rafael Catfish, talking spotted spectacle on Animal-World

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

Not only is the Spotted Rafael a looker, but this catfish can talk!

The Spotted Rafael Catfish is a hardy fellow with a striking pattern of white spots on black. This spotted white-on-black design makes it very attractive and desirable. The spotting is quite variable with big spots, little spots, and even a few spots fusing into bars, and no two catfish will look exactly the same!

Looks and durability are some great things about this fish, but now let’s examine some of its other awesome attributes.

First off, this looker can also talk, and is often referred to as the Spotted Talking Catfish. It rubs its pectoral fins (the ones sticking out to the sides) by rotating them in the shoulder sockets which then produces “Clicks”, “groans”, or “squeaks!” Aquarist usually hear it vocalizing when they are removing it from its tank.

Which leads to its next cool attribute, it is a Thorny Catfish with built in armor. Its protective coverings start with heavy armor over its face and neck. Then it has rigid spines in its top and side fins that it holds out in an erect fashion to ward off any threats, or when disturbed. It also has a series of tiny spines along the sides,running the length of its body. No fish in its right mind is going to mess with this armored “thorny” dude!

Another great attribute is its daily routine of helping to keep the aquarium clean. It is nocturnal, so during the day it likes to rest, but at night it becomes a great natural aquarium vacuum. It will spend its evening and nighttime hours busily scavenging tasty treats from the bottom of the tank.

But the last and BEST attribute… it is a peaceful fish. It likes companions and enjoys hanging out with similar types of catfish. It’s moderate in size, at about 6 Inches, but it gets along great with most other moderately sized or larger fish, even with more aggressive fellows. I guess if you have all that built in armor, you just don’t have to be a jerk!

An aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. Give it ample space with at least 35 gallons of water (though more is better), and you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion fish for up to about 10 years!

Learn more about this cool spotted “talking” catfish. Pictures and information for the Spotted Rafael CatfishAgamyxis pectinifrons, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Ocellated Synodontis, Large-spot Catfish making a splash on Animal-World

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Ocellated Synodontis, Synodontis ocellifer

Ocellated Synodontis, an upside-down catfish with very large spots!

The Ocellated Synodontis is not a clown, but it does have a very spotted coat!

Sometimes those spots can be very large, and in size it’s not too small either. Most seen in an aquarium will be less than 10 inches, but if you see this dude in the wild, it could be a whopping 20 inches in length!

A good-sized aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. But even better than that, this is a great environment for housing a very cool large-spotted Synodontis catfish. Rocks, driftwood, and twisted roots all work great to make places of refuge, and wood is especially appreciated for it to will rasp on. And because it’s nocturnal, plants floating on the surface help keep the light subdued during the daytime.

This fish spends its evening and nighttime hours peacefully scavenging delicious morsels from the bottom of the tank, and its days resting in a cozy hiding place. It pretty much gets along with almost any other tankmate, even semi to aggressive cichlids. It does get pretty big though, so beware of keeping it with very small fish. When these little fellows fall to sleep near the bottom of the tank at night, they could easily become scrumptious snacks!

In the wild it schools with its own kind while young, but then becomes a solitary fellow as it matures. Consequently, adults can be somewhat aggressive towards other Synodontis catfish species, especially if the tank is too small and without enough hiding places for all.

This easy keeper is not fussy about food, and with its non-intrusive demeanor, it makes a great community fish for both beginners and advanced aquarists. It can live for up to 20 years, so as long as its watery home is at least 50 gallons in size and is well kept, you can have this interesting and attractive fellow for a good long time!

Learn more about this “Large-spot” catfish. Pictures and information for the Ocellated Synodontis Synodontis ocellifer, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

PlanetXingu Project, A win for Catfish and the Xingu River

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Catfish Varieties: Royal Plecostomus, Panaque nigrolineatusRoyal Plecostomus or Black Lined Panaque, Panaque nigrolineatus. Color forms of this species are found in the Rio Xingu. Photo © Animal-World.com, Courtesy Ken Childs.

Two Thumbs Up! To Planet Catfish and the PlanetXingu Project

Planet Catfish and founder Julian Dignall truly deserve our praise and recognition for their successful fundraising project, PlanetXingu. Julian conceived PlanetXingu almost a year ago to help research into the Rio Xingu in Brazil.

PlanetXingu has been a great success. Big kudos to these guys in the UK for stepping up to the plate. Hundreds of aquarists and fish lovers became engaged and donated both money and time to the project. They not only reached, but exceeded their $11,000 goal!

Julian will be hosting an exciting event this coming Sunday, Feb 9th, 2014, where you can meet two of the major players on the project, Mark Sabaj Perez and Nathan Lujan. There will be two online sessions , one at 1900 GMT and the other at 1900 EST. Sign in at: http://tinychat.com/planetcatfish

The project evolved due to the plight of the endemic and migratory species of the Xingu River in Brazil. The Brazilian Government is currently constructing the Belo Monte Dam on one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Xingu River. It is estimated by Amazon Watch in their article, Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam, Sacrificing the Amazon and its Peoples for Dirty Energy, that this will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.

This project brought to light many concerns over the impacts this will have on communities, rivers, and forests throughout the Xingu basin. Amazon Watch says it is designed to divert 80% of the river’s flow, “devastating an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest”.

Dignall envisioned bringing together a communty of fish lovers and scientist to the aid of Rio Xingu. His inspiration was to help assist both researchers in the field as well as those that keep and breed Xingu basin species in captivity. Thus the launch of the PlanetXingu fundraising project in March 2013. The aim of the project was to raise $11,000 by January 1, 2014 to purchase equipment for studying the river before, during, and after the dam’s construction. You can learn more about PlanetXingu on Planet Catfish’s An Introduction to the project.

We are proud of the efforts of Julian Dignall and Planet Catfish, not only on the PlanetXingu project, but for their years of online information. Their website originated in 1997/98, at about the same time as Animal-World. With well over 2400 catfish varieties, it is a great resource for pictures and taxonomical information on catfish species, and one of our premium references. In fact one of our super team members, Ken Childs, who has over 2 decades of fish experience in the wholesale arena, provided numerous catfish pictures to their database.

Learn about the history and background of catfish on Animal-World, along with aquarium guides for the different kinds of catfish: Catfish Varieties, Fish Guides for All Types of Catfish

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Dwarf Cichlids

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Dwarf CichlidsDwarf Cichlids
“All about the different Dwarf Cichlids, including South American and African Dwarf Cichlids. Learn about their natural habitats and how to keep them successfully!”

These Dwarf Cichlids are perfect for aquarists wanting a smaller aquarium!

Dwarf Cichlids are much smaller than regular cichlids once full-grown and they are also usually more peaceful. This also allows people to keep them in smaller aquariums as well as have a more community type of tank with other varieties of fish. It is also less common for them to have destructive habits such as digging holes in the substrate and destroying aquarium plants that larger cichlids have. All in all they are much better suited for other tankmates and a nicely planted aquarium, which is good for more casual fish keepers.

South American Dwarf Cichlids, as well as Apistogramma, are great for limited space aquariums and are just as amazing to interact with and watch as the large South American Cichlids. Most of them are also fairly easy to breed in the aquarium setting, which is just one more plus side to keeping Dwarf Cichlids… Read More

More on Dwarf Cichlids!

Lake Victoria Cichlids

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Lake Victoria CichlidsLake Victoria Cichlids
“Victoria and East/West African Cichlid information, as well as Dwarf Cichlids and Mbipi. Helpful tips on keeping an aquarium with African cichlids!”

The Lake Victoria Cichlids have a huge range of differently colored species!

The most popular cichlid species are typically from Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika, however several other species of African cichlids from other areas are also available for keeping and they add even further variety in terms of beauty and behavior. Lake Victoria Cichlids are cichlids that meet this criteria and are becoming more popular among cichlid enthusiasts.

About 200 species of Lake Victoria Cichlids are out there as well as many East African Cichlids from close by lakes and rivers and some species of West African Cichlids as well.

African Cichlids in general are popular because they have so much variety in their colors and behaviors. They are able to live in many rivers and lakes because of the way they have evolved. Because of this many hundred species of diversely colored Lake Victoria Cichlids are found in Lake Victoria alone… Read More

More on Lake Victoria Cichlids!