This ultimate guide to fishkeeping explains everything you need to know about keeping fish for beginners. Starting with how to set up your tank, what water temperature you need to keep your fish in, whether they be tropical or coldwater fish and how to clean and maintain your fish tank. This guide will share the foundations of what it takes to have your own, small or even large fish tank.

Getting started

If you want to keep tropical marine fish, you’ll need to think about what sort of tank to get and where to put it. Whether you’re placing your aquarium in a fish tank cabinet, specially designed fish tank stand or even mounting your tank on the wall, you need to think about the external factors in order you give your fish the best possible care.

It doesn’t matter if you’re keeping parrot fish, angel fish, puffer fish or even clown fish, you need to carefully consider the following factors: first of all, noise, believe it or not, can impact a fish’s welfare; loud noises and continuous exposure to noise can stress your fish out and lead to a negative experience for them. Another factor to consider is the light exposure to your fish - whilst you can get fish tank lights, you must remember that strong natural light can, in fact, increase algae levels in your aquarium, something which you definitely don’t want.

Now you know what you need to consider when it comes to location, you can continue setting your aquarium up. The next step would be to fill up your tank; ensure that you have wiped the inside of the tank with a clean cloth and tepid water. It’s very important that you use no detergents for this step as that may affect the health of your fish. Following our fish keeping advice will ensure that your fish benefit from the best possible health.

Once you’ve wiped the inside of your tank, you can proceed to fill the bottom of it with the substrate of your choice. Whether you’re adding gravel or sand, make sure that you thoroughly rinse the substrate in clear running water; once your substrate of choice is fully clean, you can add it to the tank, one handful at a time.

It doesn’t matter if you’re setting up a small, large, glass, plastic, corner or even kids fish tank, never skip out on this step of cleaning the substrate as it ensures you benefit from a cleaner aquarium for longer - ultimately, keeping your fish as healthy as possible.

You may choose to add additional decor to your aquarium and nowadays there are even more fish tank accessories that you could consider adding. You can add ornaments, natural stones, plants and even led fish tank lights to your aquarium but like your substrate, you must ensure that the decorations you choose to add are thoroughly washed in some water before being added to the tank.

If you’re adding something like a plant, not washing this will affect the quality of the water. We recommend that you add 50% of the necessary water before placing your decorations into the tank, this is just to ensure that no damage occurs to your ornaments or plants.

What temperature does your fish tank need be?

For good fish keeping, you need to ensure that the water in your aquarium is at the correct temperature. As aquarium fish can fall into two categories, either tropical or cold water fish, you need to note that cold water fish prefer not to have a heated tank whereas tropical fish do.

In order to get the best possible reading for the temperature of your water then you can use an adhesive temperature strip that can be applied to the external area of your fish tank, or a thermometer designed for the job. You should never place your aquarium on a direct source of heat, nor should you present your fish tank with too much sunlight. This will cause unwanted algae growth; instead, if you’re looking to heat up a tank for tropical fish, then we’d recommend using a fish tank heater where you can create a stable temperature for your fish.

No matter what species of fish you’ve got, there’s always a middle ground for the water temperature you should be keeping them in. Adhering to these temperatures will give them optimum health. For tropical fish, you should keep them between 72° and 80° F and common goldfish should be kept in water that is between 65° and 68° F. It’s important that you monitor the temperature of your aquarium, in order to keep happy and healthy fish.

So, how many fish can you get in your fish tank?

Another important factor you need to consider when setting up your aquarium is how many fish you are going to keep in the tank; it all depends on the water capacity of the tank. If you overcrowd your fish tank, then your fish’s health will most definitely suffer, meaning they may live a shorter life.

It’s recommended that you house your fishes in a tank that exceeds a 30-litre capacity. As a guide, a 90-litre fish tank can hold around four to six large fish however you can hold around 10 smaller fish in a 60-litre fish tank. Not only do you want to make sure that your tank isn’t too small for your fish, but you want to ensure that it is not too big otherwise it may overwhelm your fish and have a negative impact on their health.

Cleaning & Maintenance

You now have the information you need for keeping both tropical and cold water fish, however, there is one more thing to consider and that’s how to clean and maintain your aquarium. Not only will cleaning it keep your fish happy and healthy but by maintaining it, you’ll always have a visually appealing aquarium to look at.

Once your fish tank is all set up and running, the next thing you’ll want to know is how often you should be cleaning it as well as how to do just that. Whilst it’s not necessary to clean your fish tank on a daily basis, it’s definitely important that you monitor your fish quite regularly; take a few moments a day to ensure that they look healthy and are behaving as usual.

As well as monitoring it on a daily basis, every week you should remove about 10 to 15% of the water, replacing it with fresh water. As well as doing this you should use a clean sponge to remove any algae from your fish tank decorations. Whilst you are performing this weekly clean you should try your best not to move the fish and you should definitely not remove them from the tank, doing so will stress them out.

You should test the water in your aquarium at least once a month, by doing this you are checking for nitrate, ammonia, as well as the pH levels; you are also ensuring that your water is healthy enough for your fish. If you are wondering ‘why is my fish tank cloudy?’, then this may be an indication that you need to clean the water. If it’s looking cloudy before you’ve got fish in there, it may mean you haven’t cleaned your fish tank decorations properly so just double check that you’ve thoroughly cleaned the substrate and any other ornaments or plants you may have in there.

In some cases, your fish tank water may turn green and that means that you have algae growth. This isn’t necessarily bad though, algae growth can be a good thing as it means that your tank is capable of supporting life on its own. However, sometimes it can detract from the appearance of your tank so we have some tips on how to control the level of algae in your aquarium.

The first thing you should do is to scrub the sides of the tank as and when needed, this prevents the algae from immersing itself into the water causing it to become murky. Like we’ve mentioned above, you should ensure that you adhere to a weekly water change; take 10 to 15% of water out and replace it with fresh water… this removes any free floating algae. Another tip is don’t overfeed your fish; if you’re overfeeding your fish then the excess food will provide nutrients for the algae and therefore lead to poor water quality and ultimately, poor health.

That concludes our ultimate guide to fish keeping. At this point, you’ll know how to set up a fish tank ready to keep a variety of different fish, you’ll know what temperature you need to keep the water at and you’ll know exactly what you need to do in order to keep the fish happier and healthier, for longer. All you need to do now is decide on where you want to set up your aquarium and choose your fish.

If you still have questions after reading this, leave a comment below or just get in touch and we'd be happy to give advice.